Ukraine Crisis, February 16, 2022: U.N. Security Council meeting on February 17 at 10;00 a.m. EST (with link to live coverage, video); no evidence of announced Russian withdrawal; background to Minsk II Agreement of September 12, 2015 (with links to full English and Russian texts)


“The situation in Ukraine – Security Council, 8968th meeting”


1) Charles Hymas, Danielle Sheridan, and Nataliya Vasilyeva, “Vladimir Putin could drag out Ukraine crisis for months, says Liz Truss; Foreign Secretary sceptical about Russia’s claims of withdrawal from the border,” The Telegraph,February 16, 2022 (10:10pm).

Russian military withdrawal a mirage; West sees no evidence on the ground

The UK Chief of Defence Intelligence said on Wednesday that he had “not seen evidence” of any scaling back by Moscow, but instead more Russian “armoured vehicles and helicopters” were continuing to arrive.

In a rare intervention, Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull said: “Contrary to their claims, Russia continues to build up military capabilities near Ukraine.

“This includes sightings of additional armoured vehicles, helicopters and a field hospital moving towards Ukraine’s borders. Russia has the military mass in place to conduct an invasion of Ukraine.”

Background of the Minsk II Agreement and French and German Pressure on Ukrainian President Zelensky

Hymas, Sheridan, and Vasiliyeva also reported that France and Germany werre exerting pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to move to make progress on implementation of the Minsk II accords:

The leaders of France and Germany, who have shuttled between Moscow and Kyiv in recent days, have pushed Ukraine to implement the highly unpopular peace accords for the separatist-held east, Ukrainian media said on Wednesday.

The two countries helped Russia and Ukraine broker the Minsk agreements in 2015 to put an end to the separatist war in the east.

On Wednesday, The Kyiv Independent quoted Ukrainian government and diplomatic sources as saying that both France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz had tried to push Kyiv to show progress in complying with the Minsk accords.

Pressuring Ukraine to implement portions of the Minsk II agreement without demanding that Russia also comply with its provisions is a huge mistake. Of course, this is what Putin wants, and France and Germany, like France and Britain in 1938 facing Hitler, may be tempted to cave in to his demands in order to avoid war.

Yet both France and Germany are members of the “Normandy Quarter”, and should be fully familiar with the history of the Minsk Protocol signed on September 5, 2014 and the Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015.

The agreements established a cease-fire in the Donbas, which Russia through its puppet “separatists” never complied with in good faith. The Minsk II Agreement calls for Russia to withdraw its forces from Donetsk and Luhansk provinces (“he Donbas”) and the restoration to Ukraine of control of the border, which Russia seized by military force in 2014.

While these provisions were in principle conditioned on the holding of elections in the two provinces, with the continued presence of Russian irregulars, the Russian military, and the so-called “separatists” which were installed by the Russian military and who in fact acted under the direct control of Moscow, the holding of free and fair elections was impossible. Russia never made a good-faith effort to resolve these sequencing and timing issues.

Moreover, it is important to understand how the Minsk Agreements came into force. With Russian troops massing on the border of Ukraine, Chancellor Ángela Merkel and her Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (just re-elected to the ceremonial post of President of Germany), spearheaded a process joined by French President François Hollande, and Ukraine, which led to the Minsk Protocol which, under the formal auspices of the OSCE, was agreed to by Russia.

The motives of the participants were significant. Germany, France, and Ukraine entered the agreement in order to forestall an invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. Russia agreed to the Protocol in an effort to stave off the adoption of heavy sectorial sanctions by the EU, whose leaders were meeting at a summit in Normandy, France. The Protocol was signed, but Putin failed in his effort to avoid the imposition of sectorial sanctions.

During the fall of 2014, the cease-fire was continually violated by the Russian-backed “separatists”, and ultimately collapsed. In order to avoid war and to keep the Minsk process going, the MInsk II Agreement was signed on February 12, 2015, re-establishing a cease-fire, which was to be monitored by observers from the OSCE.

Before France and Germany pressure Ukraine to accede to Putin’s demands to implement his disputed interpretation of the Minsk II Accord, they should examine carefully the history of its implementation, drawing on the reports of the OSCE and its monitors.

It is worth examining carefully the exact terms of the Minsk II Agreement of September 12, 2015, how it was achieved at the barrel of a gun, and how its provisions differ from the original Minsk Protocol of September 5, 2014.


1) “Minsk II Agreement of February 12, 2015 (with full texts in English and Russian),” The Trenchant Observer, February 12, 2015 (updated February 13, 2015);

2) “U.S., France, U.K. and other members should vehemently oppose any Russian-backed Security Council resolution endorsing Minsk II agreement,”The Trenchant Observer, February 14, 2015;

3) “What’s the hurry? Russia pushes hard for U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing Minsk II agreement—a “Munich II” agreement reached under the pressure of Russian military aggression,” February 15, 2015;

4) “Ukraine Update: Renewal of sanctions, “progress”, and one-sided implementation of Minsk II Agreement (with full text in English),” September 2, 2015.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.