Russia has proposed a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on sending UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, to provide security for the OSCE monitoring mission after President Putin voiced the idea.
Russia has introduced a draft resolution to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the establishment of a UN mission that would provide security for Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors working in eastern Ukraine, the Russian UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzya, told journalists.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Foreign Ministry to submit the draft after voicing the idea at a press conference following the three-day BRICS summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen.
“I consider the presence of peacekeepers, or rather people who would provide security for the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] mission, absolutely appropriate, and see nothing wrong with it,” the Russian leader said.
He went on to say that he believes that sending peacekeepers to the eastern part of Ukraine would “do good” for the conflict resolution, adding that he ordered the Russian Foreign Ministry to “submit a relevant resolution to the UN Security Council.”
At the same time, the president stressed that the potential UN mission should focus “solely on providing security for the OSCE officials,” and should operate only on the contact line between Kiev’s forces and the Donbas rebels.
He also said that this issue ought to be dealt with only after both sides in the conflict withdraw their heavy weapons and retreat from the contact line. The president then drew attention to the fact that a decision on the deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine could not be taken without direct consultations with the representatives of the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
If all these conditions were met, such a mission “would definitely contribute” to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Putin said.
The Russian president’s proposal was met with approval by the OSCE. “Austria, which is the current OSCE Chair, and the OSCE Secretariat welcome every effort aimed at ensuring lasting peace and security in Ukraine,” an OSCE official told TASS.
The official also added that the security situation in eastern Ukraine “would significantly improve if the sides fulfill their obligations under the Minsk Agreements.”
The Minsk II Agreements, worked out by Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany under the auspices of the OSCE in 2015, created the basis for a ceasefire between Kiev’s forces and rebels in eastern Ukraine. The accords further stipulated principles for a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis.
Putin’s initiative was also welcomed by the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who said that a successful deployment of UN peacekeepers could “become the first major step towards lifting anti-Russian sanctions.”
He went on to say that the implementation of this proposal could even lay the foundation for a “new period of détente” in relations between Europe and Russia.
In the meantime, the representatives of the self-proclaimed republics said they are ready for a dialog on the issue. A representative of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Rodion Miroshnik, said that the issue should first be discussed “in detail” by the Minsk contact group.
“Any mission, whether it be OSCE or UN, could be sent to Donbas only following a thorough discussion of its mandate and functions within the contact group in Minsk,” he said, as cited by TASS. Miroshnik also added that the issue needs “to be discussed in a constructive way to reach mutually acceptable agreements.”
The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said that “the people of Donbas are interested in the start of the conflict resolution process like no one else,” adding that the Donetsk People’s Republic is ready to “consider any initiatives” to achieve this goal.
Ukraine, however, was reluctant to support the Russian president’s initiative. Vladimir Aryev, a Ukrainian MP and the head of the Ukrainian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said that the Ukrainian leadership generally supports the idea of sending peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine but rejects the format proposed by Russia.
“Putin’s statement concerning the necessity of coordinating the issue of UN peacekeepers’ deployment to Donbas with the [self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk] would de facto mean legalization of their network” in eastern Ukraine, he said, as cited by the press service of the Ukrainian president’s political party – the Petro Poroshenko Bloc Solidarity.
He said that Ukraine would “never agree to such a format,” adding that the UN mission should not include Russian military as it would be “legalization” of their alleged presence on Ukrainian territory.
However, the Ukrainian envoy to the UN, Vladimir Elchenko, said later that Ukraine is ready to “work” with Russia’s draft resolution “at the expert level.”
At the same time, he also said that Kiev demands that no Russian, CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] or CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] troops be included in the UN mission, adding that the peacekeepers’ deployment could take place only after “withdrawal of foreign troops and equipment” from Ukrainian territory.
Kiev accuses Moscow of sending military aid to the Donbas rebels, albeit without providing any evidence. Moscow has repeatedly denied all such accusations.
The Ukrainian conflict broke out following the ouster of the elected president of Ukraine in a violent coup in Kiev, and the installation of a nationalist-backed government that almost immediately declared war on the regions in the country’s southeast, next to the border with Russia, which refused to recognize the newly-imposed leadership.
Kiev has been conducting a military operation in the south-east of the country since the spring of 2014. The death toll from the conflict has exceeded 10,000 people with around 24,000 injured, according to UN estimates.