A Ukraine truce deal that brought hope and more war
The Ukrainian government and Russian-backed militias signed a 12-point truce deal in September that stemmed the worst fighting but failed to resolve the separatist war.
The insurgents claim that Kiev reneged on its promise to guarantee them more independence and help repair towns and cities levelled by eight months of rocket and mortar attacks.
Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko counters that the rebels held illegal leadership poll in November and failed to bring their more militant field commanders under control.
The following is a look at where the September 5 "protocol" agreement that was negotiated with the help of Russian and European envoys in the Belarussian capital Minsk fell short.
- Ceasefire -
The warring sides committed themselves to "an immediate bilateral ceasefire". The deal also demanded the withdrawal of "illegal armed groups, military hardware, and all fighters and mercenaries" from Ukraine.
Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of supplying the insurgents with heavy weapons and Russian army units.
The Kremlin denies this and blames Kiev's forces of opening indiscriminate rocket fire on densely populated districts and committing other war crimes.
The United Nations believes that the truce deal was followed by the death of 1,300 people in fighting that centred mostly around the rebel-held city of Donetsk.
NATO estimates that the number of Russian troops in Ukraine has dwindled from nearly 10,000 in August to around a tenth that level today.
- Political -
The protocol referred to a promise made upon his May election by Poroshenko to carry out a "decentralisation of power".
The Ukranian leader ended up offering three years of limited self-rule to the militia-controlled eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
The two heavily Russified provinces were meant to use that status to hold December elections that would decide the makeup local leadership councils.
The rebels instead chose new heads of self-proclaimed independent republics in November polls that were denounced by Kiev and never fully recognised by Moscow.
Separatist leaders now accuse Poroshenko of imposing an "economic blockade" that is meant to stir an increasingly impoverished population's resentment against their rule.
Poroshenko says he was forced last month to suspend social payments to the region because the money was being used to fund the rebel revolt.
Some of the more nationalist Ukrainian lawmakers want Poroshenko to suspend a law that formally affords a "special status" to parts of the east.
- Border -
Poroshenko had long argued that he would only be able to guarantee peace when Kiev re-established control of Ukraine's porous border with Russia.
The job of making sure that no weapons or fighters cross the 924-kilometre (574-mile) frontier between Russia and the regions of Lugansk and Donetsk fell on a special observation mission from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The team had 19 staff members stationed on the Russian side of just two of the conflict zone's few dozen border checkpoints when the September deal was signed.
Their number has not grown substantially since. The OSCE has also repeatedly accused Russia of failing to allow its staff access to border sites where large troop and equipment movements were being reported by Kiev.
- Humanitarian aid -
Assistance for war-shattered regions turned into a diplomatic quagmire when Russia decided to start sending huge humanitarian convoys to rebel-held regions that Kiev suspected might be carrying arms.
The Kremlin has now dispatched about a dozen such shipments without ever receiving Kiev's permission.
The protocol did not ban the practice outright and Kiev -- still concerned that they are being used to provide fighters with winter supplies -- has turned down the scale of its protests.
The original Minsk agreement devoted little attention to measures aimed at helping people left homeless and in need of urgent assistance.
It called simply for unspecified "measures to improve the humanitarian situation". Poroshenko is urging his foreign allies to help fund war repairs.
© 2014 AFP