The World

The Latest From Ukraine: A Cease-Fire No One Is Observing in a War No One Is Fighting

A Pro-Russian gunman gestures in front of damaged houses in the North West suburban of Donetsk on Nov. 13, 2014.

Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

I’ve written before about Russia’s impressive feat of launching what appeared to the rest of the world to be an invasion of Ukraine without ever acknowledging that it was doing anything of the sort. So it’s not exactly surprising that the cease-fire declared in this war a few weeks ago doesn’t appear to have ceased any firing.  

Officials in recent days have frequently described the peace in eastern Ukraine as “under strain.” Media reports say it’s “threatened.” The Russian government says its collapse “must not be allowed.”

But what exactly is being protected here? Ukraine’s representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe says the agreement has been violated more than 2,400 times by militant groups since a truce was signed in Minsk on Sept. 5. And that’s not even counting shots that the Ukrainian military, currently besieging the rebel capital of Donetsk, has fired. The two sides repeatedly trade accusations over which one is primarily responsible for violations of the truce. 

Recent days have seen some of the heaviest fighting in months around Donetsk, where the rebels held elections in defiance of the Ukrainian government and its Western backers at the beginning of this month.

Meanwhile, NATO says Russian troops and weapons, including tanks, artillery, and air defense systems, are once again moving into eastern Ukraine.

The intensity of violence in the conflict seems to wax and wane, but it’s becoming apparent that conditions on the ground in eastern Ukraine do not in any way resemble a truce. It’s only fitting that this virtual war should have a virtual cease-fire as well.