- - Thursday, January 14, 2016

The stalemated conflict in East Ukraine is costing the Russian government a lot of money. Since the government in Kiev stopped paying pensions and benefits to residents in the pro-Russian separatist-controlled areas, Moscow, for the most part has picked up the tab. The Kremlin has supplied the rebels in the area with weapons and Russian troops have been “in-country” as well, although the Kremlin still denies this.

Thursday, at a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, the parties who agreed upon the ceasefire in East Ukraine in February of 2015 stated they will attempt to “enforce” the peace agreement terms on all parties. The Associated Press reports that Russian envoy and former speaker of the Russian Parliament, Boris Gryzlov, promised to make new efforts to enforce a shaky cease-fire in eastern Ukraine.

Martin Sajdik, representative to the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE), said the parties agreed to try again to fully halt fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels and discussed new efforts to exchange war prisoners.

Mr. Gryzlov, a member of Russia’s presidential Security Council, is seen as more influential than his predecessor, Mikhail Zurabov. His appointment has been interpreted by some analysts as a sign the Kremlin wants to intensify the talks.

In addition to East Ukraine, Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula has been more expensive than planned for the Kremlin’s budget. Recent saboteurs have destroyed power lines from Ukraine into Crimea forcing Russia to provide emergency power and adding to already exorbitant costs.

The Russian bombing campaign in Syria against anti-Assad forces and the Islamic State has also drained Moscow’s coffers. It seems the Kremlin would like to now put an end to the frozen conflict in East Ukraine for the time being while they direct resources to the Middle East. Of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin will retain the ability to ratchet up the fighting in the Donbass region if he so desires. But for now, Moscow would like to make operations there somewhat less expensive.

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