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MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. The Ukrainian forces have by and large left the major railway hub at Debaltsevo. The frontline (or the line of disengagement) is now even and an opportunity has emerged for implementing the basic items of the February 12 Minsk Accords — ceasefire along the entire line of military standoff, the pullback of heavy armaments, the deployment of OSCE observers along the disengagement line, exchange of prisoners of war and a constitutional reform.
But it looks like Kiev is in no hurry to comply with the truce terms coordinated by the leaders of four major European countries — France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.
Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, acting at the request of President Petro Poroshenko, came out with an idea of asking the UN Security Council and the European Union to dispatch an international peace-keeping police mission in the east of the country. And not only between the militias and government forces, but also on that part of the border between Ukraine and Russia that Kiev does not control at the moment.
Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, has voiced surprise over Kiev’s latest initiatives.
"The fact that some other schemes begin to be proposed at once, the question arises whether there is the real intention to comply with the Minsk Accords," surprised Churkin said.
The militias have firmly opposed Poroshenko’s initiative. The speaker of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic’s legislature, Andrey Purgin, has declared that discussing the possibility of peacekeepers’ presence in Donbas would be premature. "If we really need some kind of peacekeepers, we would like them to be Russian. But at the moment the control function belongs to the OSCE. So the proposed measure is premature," Purgin said.
There can be two types of peace operations under a mandate of the UN Security Council — an operation to restore peace to a troubled area or an operation to maintain peace once it has been established already. Would it be appropriate to launch a peace-making operation in Ukraine? If Kiev’s forces continue to disrupt the Minsk Accords again and again and bombard cities and communities in Donbas, and if the militias retaliate, then the answer would be certainly yes. But for the UN Security Council to make a decision in favor of such an operation there has to be the unanimity of all five permanent members. Achieving it is unrealistic. Then there remains the peacekeeping operation. As is known, it can be launched on the condition of consent from both parties to the conflict.
The militias will not agree to military contingents from European, in other words, NATO countries, being placed in the disengagement zone, because they will strongly suspect them of pro-Kiev bias with all the ensuing consequences. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why Donbas does not have very much trust towards the objectiveness of the OSCE mission. But on the other hand, Kiev will not agree to have peacekeepers from Russia. Also, there are some neutral countries, for instance, Serbia, Austria, Sweden and Finland.
Now, back to the peacekeeping contingent theme. It is hard to imagine what European police would be doing along the disengagement line between Kiev and Donbas. They will certainly be unable to operate against either party’s regular forces or against irregular paramilitaries, such as the Right Sector. They will have no permission to do that. What else is left — chasing robbers, thieves and kidnappers? In principle that might be possible. But for that the militias’ own forces would be quite enough. They already have their own police and other law enforcement agencies.
Also, the militias are unlikely to let some party be stationed on the border between the Donetsk and Luhansk republics and Russia.
For the time being the Ukrainian president’s not very transparent initiative has produced a great deal of bewilderment. Russia’s UN envoy and the Donbas leaders stated that quite clearly. Also, there is a big question mark over whether Kiev is prepared to implement the February 12 Minsk Accords in full, honestly and with the sense of responsibility.
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