“Minsk peace deal no longer exists, there is nothing to fulfill,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement late Tuesday.
The agreement concerning eastern Ukraine was “killed off long before Russia’s decision” to recognise Ukraine’s separatist regions, he also added.
The Minsk agreements were signed in 2014 to stop the ongoing conflict between the pro-Russian separatists and the Kyiv administration.
The agreements included a ceasefire in the region and a prisoner exchange while also allowing the Kyiv administration to make a constitutional amendment that would give Donbass region special status.
On the other hand, the pro-Russian separatists were supposed to withdraw their weapons from the Ukrainian-Russian border.
However, the agreements’ implementation has been hampered as the two sides accuse each other of violating the cease-fire.
On Monday, Putin ordered a “peacekeeping operation” in Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions after recognizing the separatist regions’ independence, paving the way to provide them more military support – a direct challenge to the West that will fuel fears that Russia could imminently invade Ukraine.
The carefully staged move announced in the Kremlin could lead to new sanctions on Russia and flies in the face of European efforts for a diplomatic solution to the escalating crisis, which has brought East-West relations to a new low and jeopardized trade. Britain’s prime minister called it a “breach of international law.”
It came amid a spike in skirmishes in the eastern regions that Western powers believe Russia could use as a pretext for an attack on the western-looking democracy that has defied Moscow’s attempts to pull it back into its orbit.
In a far-reaching, pre-recorded speech, Putin justified his decision blaming NATO for the current crisis and calling the United States-led alliance an existential threat to Russia. Sweeping through more than a century of history, he painted today’s Ukraine as a modern construct that is inextricably linked to Russia. He charged that Ukraine had inherited Russia’s historic lands and after the Soviet collapse was used by the West to contain Russia.
THE AGREEMENT: Following the large-scale fighting and violence that erupted when Russia-backed separatists seized swaths of territory in eastern Ukraine in 2014, representatives from Ukraine, Russia, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Russian-backed separatist leaders Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky drafted a 12-point ceasefire agreement, dubbed the Minsk I deal after the city where it was signed at.
The signatories met again in February 2015 to sign a successor agreement, dubbed Minsk II, that had been hammered out at a summit mediated by French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and attended by Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the city’s Independence Palace.