Ukraine struggled to maintain a tenuous cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels after a series of repeated breaches Sunday, even as the government here faced the equally daunting task of selling the peace plan to the nation.
Firefights broke out near the rebel-held city of Donetsk as well as east of the key port city of Mariupol, eyewitnesses said. Yet Ukrainian officials maintained that in general, the truce, which went into effect Friday evening, was holding.
“The Ukrainian government still believes in the cease-fire despite the violations,” said Volodymyr Poleviy, deputy spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Defense Council.
At the same time, President Petro Poroshenko faced the growing challenge of selling the deal to Ukrainians, some of whom may think that his government, confronting overwhelming force in the east, is suing for peace largely on Russian terms. The deal came together last week after a major new offensive by the rebels, who, according to NATO and Ukrainian officials, are being aided not only by Russian arms but also by Russian troops — charges that Moscow denies.
Ukrainians fear that the deal may ultimately leave the industrialized eastern regions of Ukraine in Moscow’s political sphere. Yuriy Lutsenko, one of Poroshenko’s senior advisers, seemed to acknowledge just that in a highly candid assessment Sunday, comparing post-truce Ukraine to the former East Germany and West Germany.