The headlines early Wednesday morning looked pretty promising. Finally, a chance at peace in Ukraine.
“It has been reported today that Ukraine and Russia have agreed to a permanent cease-fire in the east of Ukraine.” (Video via Sky News)
“We get what sounds like a headline. Question is, is it a false headline… this idea of a cease-fire.” (Video via CNN)
Here's where the confusion is coming from. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had first tweeted Wednesday morning he and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had “reached an agreement on a permanent ceasefire.”
Not long after, one word was missing from the corresponding statement on Poroshenko’s website. The cease-fire was no longer described as “permanent.”
"A small but significant change. Permanent would have meant frozen conflict," according to The Telegraph's Moscow correspondent.
The separatists were also questioning the truce. The deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told Russian news agency RIA Novosti he was not informed of any agreement.
And a similar story from Moscow. The Kremlin’s press secretary did say the two presidents discussed a cease-fire but added: “Russia cannot physically agree on a ceasefire because it isn’t a party in the conflict.”
Kiev and its Western allies would definitely disagree. NATO estimates Russia has sent about 1,000 combat troops into Ukraine to aid the separatist forces there — a charge Russia flat-out denies. (Video via Ukraine Today)
So what exactly is going on here? Marc Champion at Bloomberg writes Putin might have just outwitted his opponents.
"By speaking to Poroshenko and saying the two leaders agree, he suggests he is not the obstacle to a ceasefire. ... By leaving the decision on whether to stop fighting to local rebel leaders in Ukraine, Putin can still keep the conflict alive — if he wishes."
The cease-fire talk comes as President Obama visits Estonia in a show of solidarity to the Baltic States worried over Russian aggression. NATO’s highly-anticipated summit in Wales begins Thursday.