The U.S. on Wednesday offered cautious optimism for Russia’s call to deploy a United Nations peacekeeping force in Ukraine while disagreeing with Moscow over its scope.
A State Department official told Anadolu Agency in emailed comments that the option is “worth exploring” in order to protect civilians and as a possible means to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow will call on the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, where fighting has raged between government forces and Russia-backed separatist rebels.
Putin insisted during remarks to reporters that the peacekeepers be deployed between government forces and rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s east.
But Washington and Kiev worry that deploying the peacekeeping force solely along a line dividing the warring parties would help cement the rebels’ territorial claims.
The State Department official, who spoke on condition that she not be named, said if UN forces are deployed, they should have a broad mandate that would include all Ukrainian territory up to and including the Russian border “in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine”.
“Our goals are simple: restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and protect Ukrainians no matter what their religion, ethnicity or language,” she said.
The U.S. has long accused Russia of fomenting separatist violence in eastern Ukraine, including arming and training rebel groups fighting government forces.
More than 10,000 people have died in the fighting since it began in 2014, according to the UN.