Ukraine offers alternative proposal on UN peacekeepers

Kiev criticises Vladimir Putin’s proposals for war-torn east as self-serving and ineffective

Military school cadets attend a ceremony as the academic year begins in separatist-controlled Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on September 1st. Photograph:  Aleksey Filippov/AFP/Getty Images

Military school cadets attend a ceremony as the academic year begins in separatist-controlled Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on September 1st. Photograph: Aleksey Filippov/AFP/Getty Images

 

Ukraine has prepared its own draft resolution on deploying United Nations peacekeepers to its eastern war zone, after criticising a proposal from Russian president Vladimir Putin as self-serving and ineffective.

Russia said it had given UN Security Council members a draft resolution based on Mr Putin’s backing on Tuesday for peacekeepers to operate in Ukraine on a very narrow mandate: to protect international monitors and operate only at the “contact line” separating government forces and Moscow-led separatists.

Kiev has long called for UN peacekeepers to be deployed in the east, where 10,000 people have been killed in three years of fighting, but only if they have access to all separatist-controlled areas including the border with Russia, across which arms and fighters flow freely to the militia.

“It is all prepared . . . We’ll see over the next few days and, if necessary, we will present and distribute our alternative,” said Ukraine’s envoy to the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko.

“The other option is to work on the basis of the Russian draft. And that doesn’t mean that everything should remain as they wrote it.”

As well as operating in all militia-held territory, any peacekeeping mission must do more than protect monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and it must not include any Russians, Mr Yelchenko said.

“A country that is party to the conflict – Russia – can’t simultaneously be a peacekeeper,” he insisted.

Local warlords

Mr Yelchenko also said that all Russian forces must withdraw from eastern Ukraine before peacekeepers are deployed, and he rejected Mr Putin’s demand that the government seek agreement on the issue from local warlords – a move Kiev sees as another attempt to obscure Moscow’s de facto control over separatist-held areas.

“Russia constantly gave signals to us and others that it would block any attempt to move [the peacekeeping question] to official documents and pass a UN Security Council resolution – that is to say, it threatened to use its veto,” the Ukrainian envoy said.

“That is why we couldn’t get anywhere with this question,” he added, expressing Kiev’s frustration at Mr Putin’s attempt to show he is striving in good faith to bring peace to Ukraine, which pivoted to the West in 2014 after ousting a pro-Kremlin leader.

Mr Putin has taken up the peacekeeping issue as the United States considers sending advanced weapons to Kiev’s military. In comments widely viewed as a veiled threat, the Russian leader warned that such a move would only intensify and perhaps spread the conflict.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, long an advocate of better EU-Moscow relations, said Mr Putin’s proposal “shows that Russia has undergone a change in its politics that we should not gamble away”.

“It would be good if we take it as an opening to talk about new ways of detente.”