There was great news earlier today when Petro Poroshenko’s office declared that he and Vladimir Putin had cut a deal to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Finally, an end to the fighting and a chance for everybody, from Moscow to Washington, to cool off a bit. Really great news.
Except, well, Putin was never in any position to make a ceasefire deal with Poroshenko, seeing as how Russia isn’t formally at war with Ukraine and Moscow would never do anything that might be seen as officially acknowledging any role in the Donbas revolt. Putin’s office immediately denied making any kind of “deal” with Poroshenko, saying that while the two leaders had discussed paths toward resolving the conflict, it was the rebels with whom Poroshenko would have to make a deal. So Poroshenko’s office had to then retract its statement about the ceasefire, because even if you’re convinced that Russia is invading Ukraine right now, formally Putin was right. This was not such great news, though Putin did have was seems like a pretty detailed plan for a peace settlement that Poroshenko hasn’t rejected, and Putin says he’s hoping that Kiev and the rebels will reach an agreement to stop fighting by the end of the week.
This was a bit of a gaffe by Poroshenko (or someone in his office, but when you’re president there’s no real difference), who has mishandled just about every aspect of this conflict since he took office and the Ukrainian military started to get the upper hand in the fighting. The rebels were asking for a ceasefire a month ago, which Poroshenko rejected because his army was winning (and maybe to avoid a messy internal fight with his nationalist/fascist compatriots), and now he’s accepting a ceasefire almost as a lifeline because his army is losing again. Needless to say, he could have had more favorable terms a month ago than he’s likely to accept now (and without another month of death and destruction), though it seems the rebels and Moscow are giving him a lifeline by only demanding “autonomy” for Donbas (a relatively easy pill to swallow, depending on the terms) rather than full independence. He’d be smart to take it, and then turn his attention to ridding himself of those fascists.