Every morning, observers in eastern Ukraine set out to supervise how the latest ceasefire is working.
Since March, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – or OSCE – have worked in areas contested by the Ukraine army and separatist forces supported by Russia. They see heavy weapons being brought to the front. They hear several hundred explosions daily.
All the observers have are radio devices, their armored cars and one working surveillance drone. The second drone is broken.
You might think that would be enough to monitor a ceasefire. Officially, they are not in a country where war is raging. But their logbooks read like journal entries from a front-line soldier:
July 1: 306 explosions, audible at the observation point in the vicinity of the train station in Donetsk, shelling of a municipality in Vuhlehirsk, in the People’s Republic of Donetsk. Now missing in the collective deposit, where the Ukrainians have brought their heavy weapons: Eight howitzers, two anti-tank guns, three rocket launchers.
July 3: 152 explosions in the vicinity of the train station in Donetsk. 12 anti-tank mines on a street of the People’s Republic of Luhansk. Two new checkpoints of the Ukrainian armed forces near the front. Concentrations of military devices in the People’s Republic of Donetsk, among them nine tanks, four armed tracked vehicles, 28 transport tanks, 60 trucks.
July 5: Three combat tanks on the territory under Ukrainian control; 52 combat tanks, 58 transport tanks and five howitzers sighted on the other side.
That’s what the current ceasefire in eastern Ukraine looks like to observers. Thanks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande, it was agreed between Russia, Ukraine and separatists from the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in Minsk, Belarus, on February 12.