“We are talking about the possibility of a real ceasefire on both sides,” said Volodymyr Kravchenko, who leads Ukrainian military operations against Donbass separatists, on Sunday. “The situation is stable and controlled,” he said, quoted by Reuters. “We are adopting a complete and indefinite ceasefire,” agreed Denis Sinenkov, from the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, in an appeal backed by his allies from the so-called People’s Republic of Lugansk, according to the Russian agency TASS.
At first glance, they all seemed ready for the end of the long civil war in the east of the country – or the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as Kiev calls it – that has been going on for six years. The ceasefire took effect at 00:01 on Monday: less than half an hour later, anti-tank missiles and heavy machine guns were fired by the separatists, the Ukrainian military accuses. The shootings continued overnight, near Mariupol and in the village of Novomykhailivka, without casualties, according to the Kyiv Post.
It could hardly be considered an auspicious start: it would not be the first ceasefire to be forgotten in Ukraine – there have been more than 20 since 2014 – and it may well not be the last. The war in Donbass, which once made headlines and today barely arouses interest, has already caused more than 14,000 deaths and millions of displaced people, has served as a training ground for far-right militants worldwide and no one has any idea how it will go. finish.
On both sides of the front line, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski have good reason to want an end to the war as soon as possible – and to fear the reaction of their citizens.
In the case of Putin, who does not want to lose power in his sphere of influence and was based on a rhetoric of guardian of Russian speakers inside and outside Russia, as in Donbass, he is full of the desire to resume ties with countries like Germany and Germany. France, broken by the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Both European countries, which have less and less confidence in their North American allies, are ready to do so, “but are not anxious to do so without some kind of peace in Ukraine” , explained Bruno Lété, a researcher at the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Brussels.
Ukraine “wants peace, but it also wants to maintain control of its territories in the east. And she is not looking forward to negotiating peace at any cost, ”Lété told Euronews. Zelenski, a formerly elected comedian with a vague promise to end the war, has shown some willingness to carry it out – always facing fierce opposition from the most nationalist Ukrainians.
“A frozen conflict has become an option that many people in Ukraine do support,” Ukrainian analyst Olesya Yakhno told the Washington Post. “It would be impossible to pass a special statute for Donbass. Society would simply march on Parliament ”, he exemplified. “This would be seen as a capitulation.”
The problem is that this is the most obvious compromise solution for the end of the war: to give Donbass autonomy within Ukraine, as established by the Minsk protocols, signed in 2015 by all parties. But it was never possible to maintain a ceasefire long enough to implement them: on purpose or not, one side, whether the separatists or Kiev, always ends up opening fire.
Strange normality Meanwhile, the lives of the nearly three million people in Donbass remain suspended in a strange limbo. After the fiercest fighting at the beginning of the war, “nothing spectacular is happening anymore,” wrote Alisa Sopova, in the Times, two years ago. “The front line is static and life around it is quite normal – or so it seems,” continued the Donetsk journalist.
“People in conflict zones get used to danger. Like anywhere else, they work, cook, have fun, fall in love, get married and have children ”, he explained. “At the grocery store one day, the man in front of me in line holds a Kalashnikov and a grenade launcher – and a package of sausages. On the way to a birthday, I pass a caravan of tanks. Sometimes I turn up the sound of the television so that the noise of the bombings outside does not distract me from a movie ”.
“In those moments I have to remember that this is not normal,” said Sopova. “But any war that goes on creates its own routines.”