KIEV, Ukraine – Two months after Ukraine signed a truce with pro-Russian rebels, daily fighting continues in the east and other key conditions of the deal haven't been met. Despite persisting hostilities, Russia and Ukraine have struck a multibillion-dollar gas deal that has eased fears that Russian gas supply to Europe might be disrupted.
Here is a look at the agreements between the neighbors, what has been achieved and the challenges that lie ahead.
Negotiators from Russia, Ukraine, the pro-Russian rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe signed a cease-fire deal in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Sept. 5.
Hostilities have abated in most areas of the east, but fierce fighting has continued around the airport of the main rebel-held city of Donetsk and a few other strategic areas. Each side has blamed the other for breaking the truce.
The continuing hostilities are rooted in the vagueness of the Minsk deal, which failed to produce a clear line of division. OSCE-brokered talks on that are continuing. If the sides manage to reach an agreement, they are supposed to proceed to the next step under the Minsk plan: pulling their artillery at least 15 kilometers (10 miles) back from the line.
While a Russia-Ukraine gas dispute wasn't part of the Minsk agreements, it dominated talks between the countries' presidents, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko. The European Union tried to mediate a solution and the parties finally struck a deal last week.
Ukraine has agreed to pay Russia $3.1 billion before the end of the year for previous gas supplies, and the parties agreed on a price for gas deliveries through the winter. Ukraine already has made the first payment, and Russian gas supplies to Ukraine are expected to resume this week.
The gas deal was essential to prevent a replay of 2009, when a cutoff of Russian gas amid a pricing dispute with Ukraine left Europeans shivering for nearly two weeks.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of fueling the rebellion with a constant flow of troops and weapons, accusations Moscow has denied. The frontier always had been porous, and Ukraine completely lost control of it in the rebel regions in August. The Minsk agreements envisaged Ukraine fully regaining control of its border with Russia, but this hasn't happened.
In a first tentative sign of progress, Russian and Ukrainian officials last month signed a deal to establish joint monitoring of one border post, but they have yet to see it through and reach similar agreements for other sections of the border.
The Minsk agreement envisaged the deployment of OSCE monitors to observe the truce. Germany and France have promised to provide drones to assist the mission. The OSCE already has a small team of observers on the ground, but it needs to send hundreds more to make the monitoring efficient.
Russia has given mixed signals about the OSCE presence. It hosted a small team of OSCE observers at two border crossings, but has balked at allowing the organization to expand its monitoring of the border.
The deal specified the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from the area of conflict. Moscow has insisted that thousands of Russians who have joined the mutiny have done so in their private capacity as volunteers, and rejects Ukrainian and Western claims that it has sent in regular troops.
Some Russian nationalists claim that they have faced increasing obstacles in trying to ferry fighters and supplies into Ukraine, possibly indicating Moscow is attempting to staunch the flow. But OSCE monitors on the border report weekly that they see hundreds of people in combat gear crossing in and out of Ukraine unimpeded.
The Minsk agreement included local elections in the rebel-held regions. Poroshenko signed a law that granted the rebellious regions broad autonomy and set the vote for December. The rebels, however, dismissed the legislation as window dressing, saying it even failed to clearly identify the areas it was referring to in the absence of an agreed line of control. They held their own vote on Nov. 2, electing local lawmakers and executives.
Ukraine and the West have rejected the vote as a violation of the peace deal, but Russia said it respects the election.
Kiev seems set to accept the loss of territory in the east, at least until spring. But with their economy destroyed, separatist authorities have no obvious means of raising revenue, and Russia is unlikely to fully make up the shortfall. Ukraine may hope that the rebels will eventually accept a degree of government control in exchange for subsidies.
Putin, meanwhile, may be hoping that a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine will give Russia enough leverage to prevent its neighbor from ever joining NATO, while economic troubles for Ukraine as a whole could provoke social unrest and weaken Poroshenko's government, making it more likely to compromise on Russia's terms.
While Western sanctions have contributed to the ruble's nosedive and soaring inflation, they have failed to change Putin's policy. Any new sanctions could make the matters worse, fueling nationalist sentiments and contributing to isolationist trends in the Kremlin's policy. With his back to the wall, Putin may rely on military force to consolidate his gains in Ukraine.
Isachenkov reported from Moscow.