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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Ukraine. Et soudain, les canons se sont tus à minuit

by Damien Roustel

Ukraine: And suddenly at midnight, the cannons fell silent

Translated Friday 20 February 2015, by Gene Zbikowski

The cease-fire negotiated in Minsk came into force on the morning of Feb. 15, except in Lugansk and Debaltseve

Generally respected. At the time when these lines were being written, this is how you could describe the fragile cease-fire which came into force in the Ukraine on the morning of Feb. 15. It is part of the Minsk 2 peace accord which was signed in the Belorussian capital between Kiev and the separatist rebels of the eastern provinces. At midnight on Sunday, the cannons suddenly stopped pounding the city of Donetsk, the separatist bastion, where, during the preceding minutes, rocket and artillery salvoes had still been booming out every five seconds.

Wearing a military camouflage uniform, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, flanked by Chief of the General Staff and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Viktor Muzhenko, solemnly announced the truce in a televised speech. “As a first step, I am ordering the armed forces of the Ukraine (…) to cease fire at midnight on Feb. 15, he stated, adding “I hope with all my heart that this last chance to begin the long and difficult peace process for a political solution will not be wasted.”

The Ukrainian president considers the situation in Debaltseve to be “alarming”

“It’s been calm for a half hour. But we’re waiting. We don’t believe them. For three days, they’ve been pounding us hard,” a member of a pro-government unit near Horlivka told the Ukrainian network 112. The weapons also fell silent at Artemivsk. According to Ertuğrul Apakan, the chief monitor of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) special monitoring mission to Ukraine, the cease-fire has been broadly followed, even though two deaths in Popasna have been added to the list of the 5,500 people killed in the conflict.

In Debaltseve, the separatists who a encircling the Ukrainian soldiers there feel that the cease-fire cannot apply to this city because it is an integral part of their territory. The Ukrainian president considered the situation there to be “alarming.” The rebels have refused to allow OSCE observers to enter the city.

American president Barack Obama also expressed his “worry” concerning the situation “in and around the city of Debaltseve.”

For his part, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov explained that attempts to exit the “pocket” by the Ukrainian soldiers encircled in Debaltseve would be considered as a violation of the cease-fire…

If the cease-fire holds, the two sides are then to withdraw their arms from the front line, in accordance with the Minsk 2 accords.

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