Russia ready to back deployment of UN peacekeepers not only on frontline in Ukraine's Donbas

Russia ready to back deployment of UN peacekeepers not only on frontline in Ukraine's Donbas
By Sergei Kuznetsov in Kyiv September 12, 2017

Moscow is ready to back the possible deployment of the United Nations (UN) peacekeepers not only on the contact line between Ukraine's troops and pro-Moscow rebels, "but also in other places," Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone conversation on September 11.

"The protection of [Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe] OSCE observers by the UN is envisioned not only on the contact line after the disengagement of the forces and equipment of both sides, but also in other places where the OSCE [Special Monitoring Mission in the Donbas region] SMM conducts its inspection visits in accordance with the Minsk [peace agreements]," the Kremlin said in a statement published the same day.

Earlier, Putin initiated sending UN peacekeeping forces to patrol the front line in the embattled Donbas region to help resolve the three-year conflict there. However, Kyiv and Moscow have different stances towards possible mandate of the mission Specifically, Kyiv insists that UN mission should be deployed over the whole of Donbas territory not currently controlled by Ukraine, including the uncontrolled section of the Ukrainian-Russian border.

"Taking into account the views communicated by Merkel, the Russian leader expressed readiness to add to the functions of the above-mentioned UN mission proposed in the Russian draft resolution of the Security Council," the Kremlins statement reads.

In recent months the Normandy format representatives (Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia) failed to secure any significant progress during talks on settling the conflict, which erupted in 2014 as pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine broke away from Kyiv's central control. Around 11,000 servicemen, rebels and civilians have so far died.

In October, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France agreed in Berlin to draft a new road map for the implementation of the Minsk peace accords reached in the capital in 2015. The road map is intended to ensure the success of political, security and humanitarian measures in the Donbas region.

On September 7, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Kyiv favors the deployment of a full-scale UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas. However, the mission's purpose "should be not to perpetuate the Russian occupation and legalise the Russian military presence but ensure durable peace in certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine and fully restore our state's territorial integrity," Poroshenko said in the annual back-to-work address at the country's parlliament, the Verkhovna Rada.

Kyiv also insists that the UN mission should comply with the guiding principles of UN peacekeeping operations, which a priori rule out the participation of an aggressor country and a party to the conflict in it, which mean that the Ukrainian leadership opposes including the Russians to the mission.