Containing The Armed Conflict In Ukraine

Containing The Armed Conflict In Ukraine

Year(s): 2014 – present. 

Location: Donetsk and Luhansk, (de jure) Ukraine.

UN Regional Group: Eastern Europe.

Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict with Foreign Involvement, Risk of an Interstate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Diplomacy and a monitoring mission.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Impact: Limited.

Summary: The armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine has been contained to the oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk with help from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which deployed a monitoring mission to the region and has facilitated dialogue between the belligerents since the war began.

Description of Case 

The February 2014 Maidan Revolution in Ukraine culminated with the removal of the pro-Russian administration and its replacement with a pro-Western government. In the aftermath of the revolution, the new Ukrainian administration abolished many of the rights and privileges enjoyed by the country’s sizeable Russian population, many former officials fled to Russia, the Government of Russia declared the transition to be a fascist coup, and Russian armed forces annexed Crimea.[1] The deteriorating situation led to the emergence of several pro-Russian armed groups which, in April 2014, declared the formation of independent republics on territory in the eastern oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk (bordering Russia) and began receiving support directly from the Government of Russia. By May, the Ukrainian military and a range of militias were engaged with the pro-Russian separatists across eastern Ukraine. With the US and European governments offering varying degrees of support to Ukraine and the Russian military deploying thousands of troops in Ukrainian territory (and stationing many more just across the border), the fighting threatened to escalate into a much greater conflict.[2]

The international response to the conflict was led by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As early as March 2014, an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission was operating across Ukraine, observing events and promoting dialogue.[3] The OSCE also facilitated lengthy talks between Ukraine and Russia in Belarus in August-September 2014.[4] The negotiations concluded with the signing of the Minsk Agreement, which called for a ceasefire, continued dialogue, and certain reforms.[5] Although Minsk provided a clear framework for the resolution of the conflict, its key provision, a ceasefire, collapsed within days. In February 2015, the belligerents met again, approving a new package of measures known as Minsk II.[6] The agreements failed to end the fighting, leading to fresh talks in September 2016, again hosted by the OSCE. The negotiations resulted in an agreement on disengagement and contributed to a reduction in fighting in certain areas, however by 2018 these areas were once again in conflict.[7] Efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the war have failed. However, the OSCE has maintained dialogue between the belligerents throughout the conflict and has overseen the development of a framework for ending the fighting, should a ceasefire manage to hold.[8]

Authors note: As I update this case on 19 January 2022, the armed conflict in Ukraine remains contained to Donetsk and Luhansk, but Russian troops are massing on the Ukrainian border and recent diplomatic efforts have failed to offer much hope of de-escalation and resolution anytime soon.

[1] UCDP. Ukraine: Donetsk. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 01/12/2020)

[2] Ibid.

[3] OSCE. OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. (OSCE, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 01/12/2020)

[4] International Crisis Group. “Peace in Ukraine (II): A New Approach to Disengagement.” Europe Report No. 260. (2020) p.1

[5] Protocol on the results of consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group (Minsk Agreement), 2014. Available at: (Accessed 01/12/2020)

[6] Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, 2015. Available at: (Accessed 01/12/2020)

[7] Framework Decision of the Trilateral Contact Group relating to disengagement of forces and hardware, 2016. Available at: (Accessed 01/12/2020)

[8] Cindy Wittke. “The Minsk Agreements – more than “scraps of paper?” East European Politics, Vol. 35, No. 3. (2019) p.264