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  • While much has been made of the recent tensions in Ukraine, not much time has been spent parsing through how Ukraine, Russia, and The West got to this point. Ukraine has found itself in the most recent tug of war between the East and West and the end game is currently anyone's guess.Ukraine's economy has been struggling and on the verge of collapse for the past decade, if not longer.
  • A Ukrainian national guardsman was killed and nearly 90 others wounded by grenades hurled from a crowd of nationalist protesters on Monday as they were guarding parliament where lawmakers backed giving more autonomy to rebel-held areas. The violence, which the government blamed on the main nationalist party, and division in the pro-Western camp in parliament suggested President Petro Poroshenko will struggle to push through key parts of a faltering peace agreement reached in February for eastern Ukraine.
  • Pro-Russian rebels and government forces fought street-to-street in a strategic town in east Ukraine on Tuesday and refused to pull back their heavy guns, all but scuppering hopes that a European-brokered peace deal will end months of conflict. Two days after a truce went into effect, the agreement reached at all-night talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk last Thursday was unraveling rapidly. The Moscow-backed rebels say the ceasefire does not apply to the main battle front at the town of Debaltseve, astride a railway hub, where they have a Ukrainian military garrison surrounded. They have continued an all-out assault.
  • Ukraine and Russian-backed rebels fought fiercely across the east of the country on Friday despite a new peace deal brokered by Germany and France. A ceasefire is due to come into effect from Sunday under the agreement, which also envisages a withdrawal of the heavy weapons responsible for many of the 5,000 casualties in the conflict that broke out almost a year ago. Kiev said pro-Russian rebels had built up their forces across separatist-held zones since the deal and both sides accused each other of killing civilians.
  • Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine agreed a deal on Thursday that offers a "glimmer of hope" for an end to fighting in eastern Ukraine after marathon overnight talks. But all four leaders said there was a long way to go and accusations from Kiev of a new, mass influx of Russian armour into rebel-held eastern Ukraine further undermined the prospects for peace. The deal envisages a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists starting on Sunday, followed by the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line and constitutional reform to give eastern Ukraine more autonomy.
  • HE IS ridiculed for his mendacity and ostracised by his peers. He presides over a free-falling currency and a rapidly shrinking economy. International sanctions stop his kleptocratic friends from holidaying in their ill-gotten Mediterranean villas. Judged against the objectives Vladimir Putin purported to set on inheriting Russia’s presidency 15 years ago—prosperity, the rule of law, westward integration—regarding him as a success might seem bleakly comical. But those are no longer his goals, if they ever really were. Look at the world from his perspective, and Mr Putin is winning. For all his enemies’ machinations, he remains the Kremlin’s undisputed master. He has a throttlehold on Ukraine, a grip this week’s brittle agreement in Minsk has not eased.
  • Representatives of the contact group on the Ukraine crisis said no agreement had yet been reached on a ceasefire in talks in Minsk on Tuesday, denying a report by Russia's TASS news agency that a deal had been reached. TASS, quoting an unnamed source, earlier said the envoys from Russia, Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels and the OSCE security watchdog had agreed a ceasefire for east Ukraine, a monitoring mechanism and a scheme for withdrawal of heavy weapons.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to argue in Washington on Monday against arming Ukraine in its conflict against Russian-backed rebels, while in Brussels EU ministers held off tightening sanctions to give peace talks a chance. Merkel's message that sending Western weapons to Kiev risks escalating the conflict is likely to get a sympathetic hearing when she meets President Barack Obama later in the day. But critics of Obama's cautious foreign policy approach are already demanding decisive U.S. action to help Kiev fight the separatists in eastern Ukraine, even if this deepens a standoff with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande arrived in Moscow on Friday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the Ukraine crisis. Television footage showed Merkel emerging from a plane and entering a car waiting in the runway, shortly before Hollande flew in. The trip by Merkel and Hollande follows five hours of late-night talks with Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko in Kiev on Thursday. Their initiative follows fierce fighting and territorial gains in eastern Ukraine by Russian-backed separatists since a peace blueprint was agreed in Belarus in September.

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