Sunday 24 September 2017

Russia dismisses Ukraine's calls for UN peacekeepers in east

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin
After weeks of relentless fighting, the embattled Ukrainian rail hub of Debaltseve fell to Russia-backed separatists (AP)
Pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Ukrainian city of Gorlivka launching missiles
Refugees from eastern Ukraine

Thomas Grove

Russia has rejected calls from Kiev for UN peacekeepers to be deployed in east Ukraine, saying the basis for a resolution of the conflict with pro-Russian rebels there should be the Minsk agreements signed this month.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had called for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to monitor a ceasefire in east Ukraine, a proposal that pro-Russia rebels swiftly said would be in breach of the peace deal.

At an emergency meeting late on Wednesday, Ukraine's national security and defence council approved Poroshenko's request, a clear sign of Ukraine's concerns after pro-Russian rebels seized a key town after the ceasefire took effect on Sunday.

"The best format for us is a police mission of the EU," Poroshenko said, according to a statement on his website. "It will be the most effective guarantor of security in the situation when the word of peace is not observed either by Russia or by those who are supported by it."

In response, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the way forward had been set out in last week's deal. "The basis for forthcoming work for a final resolution to the Ukraine (crisis) should be the conception laid out in the Minsk accords of Feb. 12," he said.

Poroshenko, who accuses Moscow of sending troops and weapons to fight Ukrainian troops, said Russia could not take part in the peacekeeping mission as it was a "aggressor country".

Deputy Secretary General of the EU's diplomatic service Maciej Popowski said Brussels needed clarity on the mandate, which would then need to be discussed with member states.

"Our priority is now to support the implementation of the Minsk agreement. And this is already ongoing," he said.

"There are EU civilian advisers in Ukraine, the EU advisory mission, but working on institution-building, the reform of the ministry of interior and police."

Ukraine pulled thousands of troops out of the east Ukrainian town of Debaltseve on Wednesday after failing to stop an offensive by Moscow-backed rebels who said the railway hub was not part of the ceasefire.

The rebels denounced Poroshenko's call for peacekeepers, saying their presence would violate the ceasefire, negotiated in marathon talks by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

"This is an actual violation of the package of measures to implement the Minsk agreement," Denis Pushilin, a senior separatist figure, was quoted as saying by Russia's RIA news agency.

"And so we have a very negative attitude to this. Moreover we are ready to address the heads of state who were guarantors that Ukraine would meet its commitments."

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations was also quoted as saying that Poroshenko's proposal put into doubt Ukraine's resolve to fulfil the Minsk agreements.

Independent News Service

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