The United States welcomes the “school year” ceasefire recommitment made by Ukraine and Russia and witnessed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.
To mark the September 1st beginning of the school year, Ukrainian and Russian authorities agreed to a ceasefire recommitment, following a period of the worst violence seen since August 2015.
Throughout the conflict, Russia has continued to arm, train, and fight alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine, and attacks by combined Russian-separatist forces have killed 59 and wounded 319 Ukrainian service members since July 1st.
A similar "back-to-school” ceasefire last year deteriorated within weeks when combined Russian-separatist forces stepped up attacks on Ukrainian positions. This year, Ertugurl Apakan, head of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has urged all sides to implement "a full and comprehensive ceasefire."
The fighting in eastern Ukraine has taken a heavy toll on the civilian population. More than three million people are in need of humanitarian aid and more than a 1.7 million have been displaced. The death toll stands at 10,000, of which 2,000 are non-combatants.
"Access to education and provision of psychosocial support are crucial to give hope to children and adolescents in eastern Ukraine," said UNICEF’s Giovanna Barberis. "Far too many children have experienced traumatic events caused by the armed conflict. We need to help these children now to recover and move on with their life."
Only a lasting ceasefire will allow these children to resume a normal life. It is crucial the SMM be allowed to do their job -- to verify the ceasefire and ensure the withdrawal of heavy weapons. Equally crucial is for Russia to cease its destabilizing actions in eastern Ukraine, honor all its commitments in the Minsk agreements, and end its occupation of Crimea.