By Michael Smerconish ’18
November 17, 2014
Only two months into what had been a promising series of peace agreements, Ukraine recently witnessed a disheartening return of violence in its Eastern territories. Prompted by the apparent movement of Russian military convoys into Ukraine’s Donetsk region, the area has fallen back into a state of widespread combat.
Though Russia has denied any association with the convoys, General Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Europe Commander, confirmed Ukrainian claims to the contrary, saying, “Columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops [were seen] entering into Ukraine.”
Tensions between the two countries were further worsened by Russia’s recognition of the election of Alexander Zaharchenko, the new leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. Though it only has military control over almost half of the Donetsk region, the pro-separatist republic claims full political authority over the area.
Both the elections and the flow of military equipment have been deemed in violation of the Minsk peace agreements made in early September. Due to this breach of protocol, the UN held an emergency meeting this past week, its 26th overall concerning the Ukraine conflict.
While the exact plan for the military influx is still unclear, Breedlove stated that “It is our first guess that these forces will go in to make this a more contiguous, more whole and capable pocket of land in order to then hold onto it long term.” Such fears of greater separatist control over the area have already taken a significant economic toll on Ukraine. According to Reuters, the value of the hryvnia fell to 15.2 hryvnias per dollar this past week, an all time low. In addition to owing $1.6 billion to Russia in gas debts, Ukraine appears on the verge of slipping back into a state of economic instability and military engagement on par with that of the conflict’s early days.