Heavy fighting flares up in eastern Ukraine
Fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists resumed last week despite the ceasefire that has been in effect since 2015. Around 10,000 people have died as a result of the conflict so far. What are the reasons behind this new escalation in Donbass?
Europe must not leave Ukraine in the lurch
The Minsk Protocol has lost its meaning, Der Spiegel comments:
“There is a special reason for the renewed fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Russia wants to go over the Europeans' heads and work out a deal on Ukraine with the new American president. In Kiev, meanwhile, the alarm bells have been ringing for weeks. The Association Agreement with the EU that sparked the Maidan events has not yet been ratified and could fail due to the opposition of the Netherlands. Visa-free travel to the EU has also yet to be introduced even though Kiev has fulfilled all of Brussels' 144 demands. ... Kiev feels like it has been left in the lurch. All of this has bolstered the front of the populists and radicals, and many now want an escalation with the separatists. However a Ukraine that has been left high and dry by Trump's America and also perhaps by the EU is not at all desirable, as it would quickly fall prey to Russia.”
Trump and Putin adding fuel to the fire
The fighting is now concentrated in the area around Avdiivka, a city located just north of the separatist stronghold Donetsk. Russia and Ukraine have deliberately allowed the situation to escalate after the phone call between Trump and Putin at the end of January, the online portal Alfa suspects:
“If Trump's position was harder than the Kremlin had expected, it's possible that Moscow encouraged the separatists be more active militarily to see whether the White House really meant what it said. But it's just as possible that Ukraine used the events last week in Avdiivka as a way of stopping Trump's talk about lifting the economic sanctions against Russia. After Avdiivka, such demands will now be harder to push through.”