So far, and contrary to most expectations, the latest ceasefire between Ukraine and the eastern separatists, which was announced early yesterday, has managed to hold up. "Contrary" because while it is the talking point of the west that it is Putin's desire to perpetuate the proxy civil war, in reality it was Ukraine's own troops who voiced against a ceasefire as we reported yesterday:
"A ceasefire would be a disaster, we would lose everything. By fighting we can resist the invasion and send them back. With a ceasefire they will consolidate and carry on after a while," said Ukrainian soldier Taras. Another Ukrainian soldier who gave his name as Mykola said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko - who was attending the second day of a NATO summit in Wales on Friday - would "betray the country" if he backed a peace plan at this time."
Ironically, their rebel opponents share the same but opposite opinion: "The ceasefire is looking good for now but we know they (the Ukrainian side) are only using it to bring in more forces here and ammunition and then to hit us with renewed strength," said one rebel commander in Donetsk known by his nickname Montana.
In other words, both sides believe their adversary is merely using the break in the fighting to regroup and reinforce.
As to whether Ukraine's chocolate oligarch has betrayed his country remains to be seen, but for now the fighting has indeed subsided and the two main confrontation hubs, rebel-held Donetsk and Ukraine-held Mariupol, were quiet on Saturday, despite some isolated shelling overnight near Donetsk's airport, which remains in government hands. Mortar rounds were also fired at regular intervals through Saturday in the vicinity of the airport.
Perhaps to show its determination to preserving the peace, which is somewhat surprising because Putin has said all along he has no say in the Ukraine war, the Kremlin one hour ago released the following trasncript of a phone conversation that took place between the two presidents:
Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.
The discussion focussed on the situation in Ukraine in view of the Contact Group meeting in Minsk on September 5, where a Protocol on assisting a peaceful settlement in the southeast of the country was adopted. Both leaders expressed satisfaction with the fact that the parties to the conflict are generally complying with the ceasefire and stressed the importance of the OSCE monitoring the situation.
The two Presidents also touched upon ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid to the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
The exchange of views also covered the consultations on the consequences for the Customs Union member-states of the entry into force of Ukraine’s Association Agreement with the EU.
Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko agreed to continue their dialogue.
So as everyone is focusing on the breaking headline that will confirm the latest breach of the ceasefire, what is more important is that late on Friday, the European Union announced new economic sanctions against Russia but said they could be suspended if Moscow withdraws its troops and observes the conditions of the ceasefire.
Russia was not impressed and its foreign ministry responded angrily on Saturday to the measures, pledging unspecified "reaction" if they were implemented. Moscow responded to a previous round of U.S. and EU sanctions by banning most Western food imports. In other words, Europe's triple-dip recession is still guaranteed, regardless of what Draghi does or pretends to do (as noted before, even if this time he actually does more than just jawbone, Europe will not benefit in the least from the "Private QE" announced earlier in the week).
But while Putin is sure to respond to the EU's latest escalation, one person he will certainly have no response to is Patriarch Filaret, the head of Ukraine's Kiev-based Orthodox Church, who said Putin had fallen under Satan's spell and bore personal responsibility for all the bloodshed. As Reuters reports, Filaret, whose church broke from the Moscow Patriarchate in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union and the advent of an independent Ukraine, compared Putin, a baptised Orthodox Christian, to Cain, who in the Bible killed his brother Abel.
So based on western propaganda, Putin has now been compared to everything from Hitler, to Stalin, to Cain, to Satan. Clearly everyone is being objective and level-headed.
But for all the rhetoric and posturing, one person summarized it best:
In eastern Ukraine, despite the ceasefire, few expected the crisis to end anytime soon.
"This is no ceasefire but a theatre," said Donetsk resident Ksenia. "This war will go on for five to nine years. Slavs are killing Slavs, there can be nothing worse than that."
She is absolutely correct, and what's worse, the theater will continue for a long time.