Fierce fighting has erupted in Eastern Ukraine as the deadline for the ceasefire which is supposed to go into effect at midnight.
Experts say that it is a last ditch effort by both the parties to maximize their territorial gains before the ceasefire comes into effect from midnight. Both the sides are blaming the other for the ceasefire violations. The government in Kiev is saying that rebels are attacking all along the frontline which extends from the strategic transport hub of Debaltseve to the Sea of Azov port of Mariupol. The Russian backed insurgents are on the other hand blaming the Ukrainian Army for hitting their positions and towns across the breakaway Donetsk region.
The rebel offensive is focused on Debaltseve and is threatening the peace treaty signed by Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France after marathon talks which took place in the Belarus capital Minsk. Earlier agreements have failed to stop the violence which has already killed more than 5400 persons. The ceasefire is to come into effect for Midnight Kiev Time today.
Sebastien Barbe, head of emerging markets research and strategy at Credit Agricole CIB, said in a report, “The first volatility point is whether or not the cease-fire materializes this weekend. Next, there remain plenty of uncertainties in the agreement that need to be clarified and which will likely fuel political volatility. The process will likely be bumpy, at best.”
The bleak possibility of the peace treaty being successful has already shaken a jittery market. Ukrainian dollar bonds, Government notes maturing in July 2017 ended a seven-day rally, falling 2.4 cents to 54.21 cents. The Russian markets showed some positive signs and optimism that there will be no more crushing sanctions with stocks and bonds extending a second week of gains and the ruble strengthening.
Rebel forces, backed by Russian regular troops, are on an offensive to gain more territory before midnight, Andriy Lysenko, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said on Saturday. 7 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 23 wounded in the past 24 hours, he said, accusing the rebels of not complying with the Minsk Treaty provisions. On the other hand 4 civilians were reported killed in rebel held areas with Eduard Basurin, a Defense Ministry official from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic accusing the Ukrainian forces of carrying out dozens of attacks on rebel held areas.
There is a tense atmosphere of hope and despair as the clocks near Midnight when the truce comes into effect.