Battles Rage as Ceasefire Remains Shaken in Ukraine
WASHINGTON – Finding a peaceful solution in the Ukraine is proving difficult. “Separatists in Ukraine have committed several violations of the ceasefire agreement signed last week in Minsk, Belarus”, stated Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren. “The most notable have been in the Debaltseve area,” added Warren. “It’s notable that violence is down in other areas, but violations around the Debaltseve area have been fairly significant.”
“Meanwhile, Russian actions in Ukraine serve to destabilize the region”, Warren said. “We’ve seen continued Russian meddling inside of Ukraine [and] we have seen an uptick in Russian air activity throughout the region”.
The issue of feeding people in the battle zone has the United Nations stepping up.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it is scaling up its emergency operations to feed close to 190,000 vulnerable people displaced and trapped in the beleaguered country.
Over the next few months, WFP will increase its assistance, including the distribution of locally-procured food to over 110,000 people to meet urgent needs in areas where food supplies have dwindled. It said it will need $9 million to continue to provide this humanitarian aid until June.
“The humanitarian situation has deteriorated over the last few months in Donetsk and Luhansk with people fleeing their homes and taking refuge with extended families, in shelters, rented apartments and even in railway carriages,” said Carlo Scaramella, WFP Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“In areas where the fighting is still raging, the situation is even more precarious with civilians without access to functioning markets or food supplies,” added Scarmaella.
WFP’s food rations include rice, vegetable oil, wheat flour, and canned food. In relatively stable areas with an influx of displaced families, WFP plans to distribute three rounds of food vouchers for nearly 80,000 vulnerable people, particularly the elderly and female-headed households. This will allow displaced people to buy food and also inject money into the local economies of their host community – usually overburdened by hosting displaced people from other areas.
According to the World Food Programme, over a million people have been displaced in Ukraine since the start of the crisis. Many of them have exhausted their life savings and have no access to jobs. Food prices have also risen dramatically in the eastern parts of the country. A recent survey found that prices in the area have gone up by 30 percent for basic staples like bread and milk and by 75-80 percent for meat and cheese, compared to the same period last year.
Russia Makes “Sanction Sausages
International sanctions against Russia have been ramped up in recent weeks. Canada has increased the sanctions against Russia in hopes that it will move the country to withdraw from the Ukraine.
However as this Reuters video shows, the Russian people are taking the international pressure with a grain of salt.
Ukraine Forces Withdraw from Debaltseve
According to media reports, Ukrainian troops were ordered to withdraw yesterday after Russian-backed separatists surrounded the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve, which is located along a strategically significant highway between the towns of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The movement of Russian equipment into Ukraine has not slowed, Warren said.
“All of this Russian equipment that moves into Ukraine contributes to destabilization,” he said. “We continue to call on the Russians and the Russian-backed separatists to honor the cease fire — the very cease fire that was signed only days ago.”
The separatists “need to withdraw their heavy weapons and they need to allow the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] the access to begin monitoring the cease fire,” Warren said, noting that OSCE monitors are being threatened by Russian-backed separatists as they attempt to monitor the cease fire.