Kiev and Moscow clash over proposals for UN peacekeepers in Ukraine

US backs Kiev's call for mission to have access to Ukraine-Russia border

 Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko meets US president Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko meets US president Donald Trump at the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

Kiev and Moscow have rejected each other’s visions of a United Nations peacekeeping mission for eastern Ukraine, casting doubt on whether a compromise can be reached to end fighting that has killed 10,000 people and poisoned east-west relations.

Ahead of his planned meeting with US president Donald Trump on Thursday, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko told the UN General Assembly that “the latest hybrid ‘peacekeeping proposals’ from Moscow are yet another example of Russia’s real ambitions – to legalise its proxies and to freeze the conflict forever”.

Having opposed earlier Ukrainian requests for peacekeepers in the divided Donbas region, Russia distributed a UN draft resolution this month for a mission that would be restricted to the “contact line” separating government and separatist forces and would provide security for international monitors operating there.

The Kremlin later accepted that the mission should be allowed to go beyond the contact line, but still rejects calls for them to have access to the Ukraine-Russia border and to do more than just protect the monitors.

“The peacekeepers’ mandate should cover the entire occupied area, including the Ukrainian-Russian state border . . . As long as the border is used as the main supply route for manpower and weapons to Donbas there will be no peace in my country,” Mr Poroshenko said.

He also insisted that an impartial mission must not include “the aggressor’s personnel” – Russian citizens – because Kiev and Moscow “strive for completely different things” in Donbas.

Peace vs freedom

“Ukraine wants peace and restoration of sovereignty over its territory. Russia wants control over Ukraine . . . So Russia tries to exchange peace in Ukraine for Ukraine’s freedom. Ukraine will never accept that kind of deal,” Mr Poroshenko said.

During his speech, Ukraine’s leader held up a handful of red booklets that he said were identity documents belonging to Russian soldiers who fought in Donbas.

Moscow continues to deny the ample evidence of its military presence in Donbas – just as it did in post-Soviet wars in Georgia and Moldova, where Russian peacekeepers oversaw the entrenchment of separatist rule in breakaway areas.

Russian deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov said, “Russia is not a party to this conflict, so there is no point deploying peacekeepers on the border.”

According to the 2015 Minsk agreements aimed at resolving the conflict, “there is a whole set of questions that should be decided before we get to a conversation about the Russia-Ukraine border”, Mr Gatilov insisted.

“The Ukrainians are trying to stand everything on its head – to close Russia’s border with Ukraine first and only then answer, or not answer, questions linked to other aspects of a settlement. We do not share this approach.”

Also on Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “given the [Ukrainian] position that Russia is an aggressor, there is unlikely to be any room for manoeuvre, because this position absolutely contradicts the real state of affairs”.

The United States, which is seeking a greater role in resolving the conflict, has said any peacekeeping mission must have access to the entire conflict zone, including border areas, to avoid deepening divisions in eastern Ukraine.