NATO’s top general said Saturday the two-week-old truce between Ukraine and pro-Russian militants fighting in the country’s east is a “cease-fire in name only,” and he said that by enabling a free flow of weapons and fighters across the border Russia has made it nearly impossible to determine how many of its troops are operating inside Ukraine.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told a news conference after meeting with NATO military chiefs that he is hopeful about Saturday’s announced agreement for creation of a buffer zone between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces.
The deal reached by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the Moscow-backed rebels and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe marks an effort to add substance to the Sept. 5 cease-fire agreement that has been frequently broken by clashes.
Breedlove has put the main blame on Russia for the continuing conflict.
“So the situation in Ukraine is not good right now,” he said. “Basically we have a cease-fire in name only.”
Breedlove said violence levels in Ukraine, including the number of artillery rounds fired in the past few days, are as high as prior to the cease-fire.
Asked about prospects for an acceptable end Sunday to the prolonged stalemate in Kabul over Afghanistan’s presidential election, Breedlove sounded an optimistic note, saying NATO officials have spoken with both candidates, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and former finance minister and World Bank official Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
“We believe they are very, very close to forming that unity government (which) we think is very important,” Breedlove said.
He said both Abdullah and Ghani Ahmadzai have promised a “quick signature” to a U.S.-Afghan security agreement that would provide the basis for nearly 10,000 American troops to remain in the country after the U.S. and NATO combat missions end in December. The current president, Hamid Karzai, negotiated the deal last year but refused to sign it.