Many sceptics voiced concerns that Putin got everything he wanted within the measures for implementation of the Minsk agreement (Minsk II). They argued he gained two days to complete the offensive on Debaltsevo and will have de facto influence on the ground. There were claims that Putin will keep up a control monopoly of the Ukrainian border with Russia and of local elections in the two Ukrainian border districts of Donetsk and Lugansk. And he got assurances on the economic, social and financial support from Ukrainian Government to the two districts occupied by the foreign mercenaries.
On the other hand, Ukraine received the guarantees from the co-signatories on its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It got a cease-fire, a pull-back and then withdrawal of foreign troops from its territory. It will grant pardon and amnesty to all persons in the two districts and will exchange prisoners, including those illegally detained, and followed by a complete demilitarisation of the conflict zone. Furthermore, the local elections, modalities on which should be agreed upon, will be organised under the Ukrainian legislation. In addition to this, it will make an attempt for an agreement to restore economic and social connections, in parallel to passing the constitutional amendments for decentralisation of power.
Yes, the agreement may not even fly, and yes, it may be a long ride for Ukraine, and yes, Putin may have got a lot in his truck. But regardless of this, some things are nevertheless clear – Putin’s gains are not as proof, as the ones that can be assigned to Ukraine. Putin will pay a price for Debaltsevo, another symbol of battlefields in Ukraine, and even if he will reach it or try keeping an arm length control on shipments, this will bear him further political, economic and by no means direct financial costs. Furthermore, open and free local elections in the two districts will be hardly possible if the border of Ukraine with Russia won’t be accessible to Ukraine. Nor that will be possible if two districts will be kept heavily militarised by groups of alien mercenary soldiers. Ukraine in this situation will be always in advantage, simply because it is defending the peace and is embarking on bold economic reforms.
To sum up, it becomes clear that Ukraine is in a better position in the short run, while Putin will find himself worse in the long run, unless he will take seriously the agreed steps of implementation. And that will be seen in the next few days. Therefore, what Ukraine got today is, indeed, a glimmer of hope, as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has elegantly put it. It is for the peace that is under a constant threat and in need of being continuously defended.