A new ceasefire between the Ukrainian Joint Forces Operation (JFO) and pro-Russian separatist forces came into effect on Wednesday, August 29. The ceasefire coincides with the start of the new school year in Ukraine. JFO officials announced on Thursday, August 30, that the intensity of shelling by separatist forces has significantly decreased since the start of the ceasefire. However, JFO positions were reportedly targeted 18 times between August 29-30 and separatists have also accused Ukrainian soldiers of violating the ceasefire. Additional clashes are possible between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist fighters in the coming weeks despite of the agreement.
The so-called “back to school” ceasefire was signed during a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) in Minsk on August 22. Clashes between Ukrainian state forces and the separatists have been taking place on a regular basis despite a number of ceasefire agreements made since 2014. According to the UN, more than 10,300 people have died since the eastern Ukraine conflict erupted in April 2014, soon after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. The fighting has displaced more than 1.6 million people. The rebels remain in control of a large swath of territory in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, which are mainly Russian-speaking regions.
Due to the ongoing conflict, many Western governments advise against travel to Donetsk and Luhansk provinces - in particular, the cities of Mariupol, Donetsk, Makiyivka, Horlivka, Debaltseve, and Luhansk, as well as areas along the Russian border. The Ukrainian government has stated that foreigners entering Ukraine from Russia through rebel-controlled territory will not be allowed through any checkpoints into government-controlled territory.
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