A very shaky ceasefire is in place in some parts of Eastern Ukraine, while in others, Ukrainian troops are running for their lives under heavy shelling. The toll from prolonged fighting on Ukrainian troops is showing. Case in point: this soldier who slipped from clinging to a BMP-1 as it retreats at high speed from rebel-dominated territory.
President Petro Poroshenko has commanded his troops to leave the hotly contested strategic railway artery town of Debaltseve where heavy fighting continues, even during his troops' withdrawal.
Ukrainian forces have resorted to laying down high-volumes of suppressive fire and escaping individually through fields and forests surrounding the embattled city as military vehicles are being targeted by pro-Russian forces' artillery fire. Meanwhile, Russia wants Ukrainian troops still in rebel held territory to surrender, which could leave them vulnerable to abuse, prolonged imprisonment and even execution.
Even though Russian was seemingly onboard with the ceasefire deal minted in Belarus last week, US Ambassador Samantha Power accused Russia of the same old bait-and-switch tricks:
Russia signs agreements then does everything within its power to undermine them. Russia champions the sovereignty of nations and then acts as if a neighbour's borders do not exist.
Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the Power's comments were "offensive" adding:
Since the very start of the crisis, Russia has actively called for a peaceful settlement through inclusive, transparent dialogue between all sides in the internal Ukrainian conflict.
The UN has fully endorsed the Minsk ceasefire agreement, although it is debatable if such a deal really will just lead to more intense warfare in the future. Russia has pulled its forces back from the border before just to have them quickly redeploy again later and exactly how effective rebel-Russian command and control is over their own troops operating in the region remains debatable. So even if Russia called off hostilities would all of the anti-Kiev rebels follow those orders? We shall find out.
Regardless of the fighting or lack thereof, Moscow will now have a well armed and decently organized force deployed in Eastern Ukraine and a standing high-end military force in Crimea for the long haul. This may have been Putin's goal all along, to have the ability to destabilize Ukraine and threaten NATO's backdoor at a moments notice.
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com