Russia Proposes UN Peacekeepers for Donbass; Ukraine Rejects Russia’s Involvement, Points Out Drawbacks

September 5, 2017
President Vladimir Putin in Xiamen, China at BRICS meeting, September 4, 2017. Photo by Ruptly

Ukraine Day 1296: LIVE UPDATES BELOW. No casualties were reported.

Yesterday’s coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.

An Invasion By Any Other Name: The Kremlin’s Dirty War in Ukraine


Russia Proposes UN Peacekeepers for Donbass; Ukraine Rejects Russia’s Involvement, Points Out Drawbacks

Ukrainian Amb. Volodymyr Yelchenko at the UN. Photo by

At the UN Security Council, Russia proposed UN peace-keepers at the line of contact in the Donbass, TASS reported.

Russia’s UN envoy Amb. Vasily Nebenzya told journalists that the proposal for peacekeepers had been sent to the current chair of the UN Security Council and Secretary General António Guterres. The text would be made available to Security Council members next week and negotiations would begin.
Later, President Putin said the UN peacekeepers could be used “only to guarantee the security of the OSCE mission” and specified that they “should only be at the line of contact, and not in any other territories,” Unian reported.
The line of contact is usually referred to in Russian as “the line of separation,” i.e. where forces are ostensibly pulling back their armor and refraining from fighting.
But that line in the Donbass — as OSCE monitoring bears out — continues to be a place where battles take place regularly, where armor is not withdrawn, and fighters with fresh supplies from Russia are still appearing.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has repeatedly called for UN peacekeepers, only to face the reality of Russia’s veto at the Security Council — readily indicated by President Vladimir Putin’s repeated rejection of the proposal in the past.
But Ukraine immediately pointed out that there was no peace to keep. Amb. Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ukraine’s envoy to the UN, told Radio Svoboda, according to a report by (translation by The Interpreter):
“This is a very difficult question…until this conflict is frozen, that is, combat ceases, I think not a single country will be willing to send its peace-keepers, which would be operating under conditions of active combat.”
He also said Poroshenko had his own proposal to be submitted to the General Assembly on September 20 (where the veto wouldn’t affect it).
Later, Ukraine announced formally that it would oppose Russia’s participation in any UN peacekeeping in the Donbass if a decision was made to have one, reported:
“In the event a decision is made to conduct a peace-keeping operation, there can be no question of the presence of military or other personnel from the side of the aggressor on Ukrainian territory, under the guide of peacekeepers since this will contract the UN’s basic principles of peacekeeping activity.”

Nor could there be any question that the Russia-backed separatist fighters would participate in such a mission, he added.

Russia military officials are already a member of the Joint Center for Coordination and Control, which monitors the ceasefire, and Russia also have staff on the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, involvement which has drawn criticism not only from Ukraine because of Russia’s role in sponsoring the conflict in the Donbass. A number of attacks have been made on OSCE monitors by Russia-backed separatists and Russia has sought to focus only on Ukrainian violations of the ceasefire.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said the Putin’s proposal was an effort to portray the war in the Donbass as an “internal conflict”  and would not lead to the restoration of territorial integrity.
Putin also took the opportunity in his speech in the Chinese city of Xiamen at the BRICS meeting to note that if the US gave lethal weapons to Ukraine, the separatists would attack other regions of Ukraine.
Putin couched his remarks within a recognition that countries have the right to sell arms to any other countries and Russia cannot influence this, but “perhaps” in the case of Ukraine, the militants “would send the arms they have to other zones of conflict with are more sensitive for those who create problems for us” — a reference to the western parts of Ukraine. 
Last month, Yevgeny Marchuk, Ukrainian representative in the Trilateral Contact Group and head of the Ukraine-NATO International Secretariat for Security and Civilian Cooperation said there were a number of obstacles to a peacekeeping missions:
“If in the proposal we indicate Russia’s agression, this will mean war between two states. Peacekeepers as a rule did not take part in such cases. If we don’t indicate Russia’s aggression, that means we have an internal civil conflict and then the peacekeepers could take part.”

The UN Security Council can invoke various regimens for such missions ranging from Chapter VI and Chapter VII to Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which have different mandates for the levels of the use of force and involvement of other regional organizations.

This boils down to whether or not the missions merely monitor, as the OSCE does; whether they can protect their own staff members with arms, but not civilians; and whether they can actually use force to deter and repel arms forced that may attack civilians. Chapter VII resolutions are far less frequent because of the difficulty in getting states to agree about using forces — they include missions in Afghanistan and in the past in Sierra Leone.
The failure to get the permanent members of the Council to agree means that many missions are dubbed “Chapter VI-and-a-half” — i.e. not authorized to use force required to deter armed combatants.

Today, September 5, ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] reported that the Lugansk line was relatively quiet. There were attacks on the Maritime line with heavy machine guns near Talakovka and Vodyanoye and with grenade-launchers on Maryinka. Heavy machine guns and small arms were fired at Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk line at the Avdeyevka industrial zone. No casualties were reported.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

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