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The War Wages on Despite Ukrainian Ceasefire

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Ukraine: Ukrainian and rebel sources agree that the new ceasefire is holding in most regions. Both also agree that fighting continues for control of the Debal'tseve pocket.


Eduard Basurin, spokesman for the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) said that the situation was calm during the night and that it is calm in the southern and in the northern regions. "The ceasefire is largely observed, but the enemy artillery is shelling our positions near Debal'tseve..."

The leader of the DPR, Oleksandr Zacharchenko, said, "The cease-fire regime applies to the Debal'tseve area as well. A group of several thousand Ukrainian troops remains blockaded in this area. All Ukrainian servicemen in Debal'tseve and the adjacent population centers must leave the city without weapons or equipment."

He said that any attempts to break through onto Ukrainian territory or to storm the DPR's positions in that area would be cut short. "We are calling on Kyiv to strictly abide by all the clauses of the Minsk agreements dated 12 February 2015," Zakharchenko said.

A Ukrainian spokesman said rebel shelling intensified during the afternoon and the evening of the 15th. He confirmed that Debal'tseve is the hot spot which was shelled 32 times. He claimed to have intelligence that the rebels still intended to capture Debal'tseve.

Update on monitoring. On 15 February, the contact group for implementing the package of measures in the Minsk agreement and representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine met and decided on a mechanism to ensure the safety of movement of the OSCE mission on the territory of the DPR. DPR police officer will be their escorts, but no other details were disclosed. The announcement indicated the monitoring operation will begin on 16 February.


Ukrainian rebels denied OSCE monitors access to Debal'tseve. The local rebels said the ceasefire did not apply to that region. The OCE mission chief said Debal'tseve and Luhansk were the areas where worst fighting continued.

Comment: Some DPR rebels said the ceasefire does not apply to Debal'tseve. Their leader seems to believe it applies and requires the Ukrainians to evacuate the Debal'tseve pocket and to surrender their weapons. Either interpretation signifies that fighting and shelling will continue in the Debal'tseve area.

Press reports and public statements indicate that none of the four heads of government signed the Minsk agreement. Lower level officials signed the documents, including a representative from the rebel region.

The agreement appears to be a compendium of unfinished business from last September's Minsk accord. One knowledgeable analyst described the agreement as a "to-do list." It seems to be a technical experts' plan to implement a general accord among the principals.

In this case the leaders of the four powers only agreed verbally to respect Ukraine's integrity and that the fighting should stop. They signed no document, which means the principals did not agree on the meaning of those two terms as they apply to Ukraine. The technical experts have no authoritative documentary reference to guide their work.


Bahrain-Jordan: Bahrain will support Jordan in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Bahrain's News Agency(BNA) reported on Sunday. BNA also reported that a group of Bahraini Royal Air Force fighter jets had arrived in Jordan.

The agency said the move was part Bahrain's commitment to "the efforts of the International Coalition to eradicate terrorism."

Comment: The monarchies are hanging together in fighting "terrorists."

Yemen: Update. Italy, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar evacuated their embassies since Friday.

Press services reported thousands of Yemenis participated in anti-Houthi protests on Saturday and Sunday. In a clash in al-Bayda Governate on the 14th, 16 Houthis and 10 Sunni tribesmen and militants died. Houthi militiamen also fired on a crowd of protestors in Ibb.

UN. On 15 February, the UN Security Council approved a resolution demanding that the Houthis immediately and unconditionally withdraw forces from government institutions and engage in good faith UN-led peace talks.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Egypt. On the 14th, the foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates) warned Yemen that the members would take whatever action they deemed necessary to maintain regional security and stability, if the UN failed to approve the use of force against the Shia rebels.


Comment: The UN did not approve the use of force, which leaves the burden of taking action on the GCC members. There are numerous rumors about intervention in Yemen, most of which are not credible. One that seems credible is that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are cooperating militarily to ensure the Houthis do not interfere with maritime traffic in the Red Sea.

Chad-Boko Haram: On Friday, 13 February, a Boko Haram team conducted the movement's first attack in Chad. The attackers used motorized canoes to cross Lake Chad to attack Ngouboua village. Security sources and witnesses said the terrorists killed five people, including a local chief, a police officer and three civilians. The Chadian military said it killed two of the attackers.

Comment: This attack appears intended mostly as an act of defiance. In early February, Boko Haram leader Shekau boasted that his group could reach all of the Central African states allied against him. He said he was ready. This attack demonstrated no new capabilities. The village contained several thousand Nigerian refugees. That seems to be a pattern, suggesting infiltrators and sympathizers are guiding the identification of targets. Lone villages will remain vulnerable, especially if they contain Nigerian refugees.

Nigeria-Boko Haram: On the 14th, Boko Haram fighters traveling in a convoy of 24 Toyota Hilux vans attacked the northeastern town of Gombe, the capital of Gombe State. Nigerian troops, with combat air support, beat back the attack.


Local residents told the press that Boko Haram fighters warned them against voting in next month's elections. No official source commented on casualties.

On Sunday, 15 February a female suicide bomber killed at least 10 people and injured 30 when she blew herself up at a bus station in Damaturu in Yobe State. An angry mob prevented rescue workers from evacuating the remains of the bomber and set her body parts on fire.

Comment: The two Nigerian attacks and some minor attacks last week are the first significant terrorist actions west of Maiduguri in Borno State since late January. The attack at Gombe was a serious attempt to take over the town, but the convoy attacked two villages on the way to Gombe, thereby giving the Nigerian forces warning of an imminent attack in time to react.

Questions for the Readers: Where did Boko Haram get the vans and the supplies to keep them operational? Who holds the Toyota franchise?

Boko Haram groups appear to be trying to relieve pressure on fighting groups in the far northeast by staging attacks in adjoining states. If that is an accurate hypothesis, it would mean that Boko Haram's command and control capabilities are significant in an area where cell phone use is said to be sparse.

End of NightWatch


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