Washington supports the idea of placing a UN peacekeeping mission in Ukraine to protect OSCE representatives who are monitoring the implementation of Minsk agreement, but only if the Blue Helmets also patrol the Russian-Ukrainian border.
“We believe the possibility of a UN peacekeeping force for eastern Ukraine is certainly an idea that is worth exploring,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told journalists Wednesday.
“We consider that a possible means of protecting Ukrainian citizens regardless of their ethnicity, their nationality,” Nauert said. “We see it potentially as a pathway to restoring Ukrainian sovereignty and also territorial integrity.”
On September 5, Russia proposed a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on sending UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, after President Vladimir Putin voiced the suggestion during the three-day BRICS summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen.
The draft, seen by Sputnik and TASS, calls for the deployment of UN peacekeepers on the actual contact line between Ukraine’s military and the forces of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
According to the draft, the UN peacekeepers will have small arms to protect themselves while monitoring the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission. The composition of the UN mission in Ukraine would have to be approved by both Kiev and representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The resolution fully supports the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and underlines the need to fulfill the Minsk accords.
The Minsk II Agreement hammered out by the Normandy Four – Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany – under the auspices of the OSCE in 2015, created the basis for a ceasefire between Kiev and the rebellious eastern Ukraine region. The accords further stipulated principles for a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis.
Germany has welcomed the peacekeeping idea. In a phone conversation, President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also agreed on the extension of the UN mission’s mandate, empowering it to accompany members of the OSCE monitoring mission to every region in which they operate.
The US, which is neither part of the Normandy Four nor a signatory to the Minsk agreement, has proposed an amendment to deploy UN forces, suggesting that its mandate should stretch all the way up to Russia’s borders.
“Any such force should have a broad mandate for peace and security throughout the occupied territory of Ukraine up to and including the border with Russia in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine,” Nauert said.
The US State Department’s position seems to support Kiev’s interpretation of the potential peacekeeping mission to Ukraine. Earlier Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the United Nations, stated that Kiev would agree on an international peacekeeping mission, but only if the Blue Helmets are sent to Russian-Ukrainian border.
Ukrainian officials have also refused to coordinate the details of the mission with the self-proclaimed republics as it would mean their “legalization.” Kiev also emphasized that it does not want to see any Russian, CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] or CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] troops among the peacekeepers.
Kiev has also accused Moscow of sending military aid to the Donbass rebels without providing any evidence and wants to regain control over the border with Russia. Moscow has repeatedly denied all such accusations, saying it only provides humanitarian aid to the people of east Ukraine suffering an economic blockade by their own government.
Under the Minsk agreements, Kiev must first grant “special status” to Donbass, declare general amnesty for the population and lift the economic blockade, before it gets back control of the borders. Kiev, however, continues to challenge the conditions, refusing to fulfill its part of the deal.
The Ukrainian conflict broke out following the ousting of the elected president of Ukraine in a violent coup. This was followed by 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.