Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine's east have vowed to continue their mid-winter assaults, agitations and land grabs as Russia warns that Ukraine could become a "bleeding wound for decades".
Despite the efforts of Germany and France to lure the conflict parties into honoring a cease-fire agreement inked last September at Minsk, Belarus; and despite a pledge earlier this week that rebels would honor the demarcation line established by the Minsk Pact, pro-Russian rebels have now set out upon a new offensive, to capture more territory in eastern Ukraine.
Reuters has cited a Russian Interfax News agency report that the pro-Russian rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko has vowed not to compromise after making recent territorial gains. "There will be no attempt to speak about a ceasefire on our part," the self-proclaimed head of the Donetsk People's Republic said, adding: "We will carry on our offensive up to the borders of the Donetsk region and if I see a threat coming from other sides, it will be eliminated." The declaration by the separatists has in essence voided the Minsk pact, but some members of the European Union(EU) still cling to the hope that the ceasefire agreement could be salvaged.
While Ukraine's military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov has described the new rebel offensive as another declaration, he said the separatists have claimed their would take the cities of Mariupol, Slaviansk and Kramatorsky. "Let them talk," the Ukrainian told Reuters of the rebels. Ukraine plans to increase its armed forces by 68,000.
But the separatists are doing more than talking - they are taking territory. And Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has warned the World Economic Forum(WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that Ukraine could be a "bleeding wound for decades." Thus far, some 5,086 have been killed in the conflict in Ukraine's east since last April and in the past nine days, 262 have died as assaults have escalated.
The European Union's rotating presidency which lies presently with Latvia's Edgars Rinkevics, has admitted that the new violence in Ukraine jeopardizes a ceasefire deal with Russia and the EU and that the EU may look at new measures to sanction Russia. He said: "...I don't want to declare Minsk agreements dead yet." However, he observed that when he visited Moscow and Kiev two-weeks-ago, he saw a possibility for resolving the Ukraine crisis. Now, he sees the situation as being "very bad".
So Ukraine's mid-winter woes will continue. Peace appears shelved. New offenses by pro-Russian separatists could prolong the conflict into the dead of winter and beyond.