KYIV – The new ceasefire agreement for Ukraine was signed in Minsk almost one year to the day after Russian troops – their faces masked, their military insignias removed – invaded Crimea. In the interim, thousands of Ukrainians have been killed, and hundreds of thousands more have been turned into refugees in their own country. Russian President Vladimir Putin, determined to restore by force the sphere of influence once held by the Russian/Soviet empire, has shredded the rules that have ensured peace in Europe – indeed, in much of the world – for three generations.
While Russia was launching its bid to subordinate Ukraine, I was in prison, with scant hope of ever regaining my freedom. The regime of former President Viktor Yanukovych was dancing to the Kremlin's tune, and my confinement ended only because of the courage of the millions of Ukrainians who demanded its ouster. Yet my freedom has left a bitter aftertaste, because my imprisonment ended only as the war against my country began.
Now, after a year of savagery, sabotage, and mendacity on a scale unseen since Nazi rule in Europe, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine have agreed on a new road map to peace for our country. I must hope against hope that the agreement reached in Minsk, unlike the accord signed there in September 2014, succeeds. The people of Donbas, still bombarded and besieged by Russian troops and their local accomplices, deserve a return to normalcy.
Equally important, our prisoners of war and hostages deserve to be returned to their families. An early test of the extent of the Kremlin's commitment to the Minsk agreement should be whether it frees Nadiya Savchenko, Ukraine's first woman fighter pilot. Savchenko has been on a hunger strike in Russia for more than two months to protest her patently illegal incarceration on charges even more ludicrous than those for which I was imprisoned.