A man stands in a queue of people waiting for relief packages given out by the International Committee of the Red Cross in the town of Debaltseve, February 22, 2015.
Baz Ratner / Courtesy Reuters

The second Minsk ceasefire agreement, signed on February 12, had an inauspicious beginning. Just after the ceasefire was supposed to come into effect, the separatist rebels forced Ukrainian troops to retreat from the encircled city of Debaltseve. The city’s fall, and the continued fighting along the front, could prove to be an early end to the ceasefire. But hope remains that it is actually a beginning, since other parts of the frontline have calmed down, and the sides have started to exchanges prisoners. Although the recent agreement may not provide a final solution to the conflict, it has good prospects of freezing it.

Observers have labeled the deal as an unqualified victory for Russia. Indeed, it gave Russia most of what it sought for the separatist regions—autonomy, special status, and assurances that separatists will be protected before Russia is required turn over control of the border. This is in

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