Wait, Vladimir Putin Is Playing Good Cop in Ukraine Now?

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June 24 2014 1:57 PM

How Real Is This Ceasefire in Ukraine?

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his news conference at the Normandy Barriere hotel in Deauville on June 6, 2014.

Photo by YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

Seemingly, all the ingredients are in place for a resolution to the ongoing violence in Ukraine. New Ukrainian Petro Poroshenko declared a ceasefire last week, which was backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and, today, by the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic. Former President Leonid Kuchma is acting as a go-between in talks between the government and the rebels which allows Poroshenko to (technically) keep his pledge not to negotiate with rebels who have blood on their hands. In what appears to be another step toward de-escalation, Putin renounced his right to send troops into Ukraine today.

On the other hand, in Ukraine itself, it certainly doesn’t look like the fighting has stopped. Another Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down by rebels a day after the ceasefire deal was announced. Both sides are accusing the other of violating the truce.

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Putin’s announcement comes just a few days after NATO claimed that there is a new military buildup taking place. His support for the ceasefire deal that would involve pro-Russian militants leaving the country also came just days after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov compared it to “ethnic cleansing.”

With more international sanctions potentially on the way, Putin lately seems to be playing the unlikely role of good cop in this conflict, voicing support for reconciliation and peace while the pro-Russian rebels keep fighting with what certainly seems like tacit support from Moscow, and his foreign minister and the national gas monopoly keep up the pressure on Kiev.

Some of the rebel groups may also have gone rogue – some members of the recently formed militia group Russian Orthodox Army recently expressing irritation with Putin’s on-again-off-again support.  

In any event, the good news is that the worst-case scenario – full Russian invasion – now looks extremely unlikely. But the volatile mess in Eastern Ukraine still looks a long way from resolution. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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