Completing ATO in a few hours, as Petro Poroshenko assured, entering the presidential post, failed. The Anti-Terrorist Operation in the East lasted four years. Unfortunately, with its formal termination (ATO was replaced by the Operation of Joint Forces), the military conflict has not gone away, the aggressor has not left our land. Over time, more and more hopes are placed on the UN peacekeeping mission.

Immediately – does not mean instantly

A peacekeeping mission is not such a simple matter as it might seem at first glance. Many factors influence its appearance and carrying out, which for their part depend on the specifics of the conflict, the peculiarities of the region, unforeseen situations. It cannot be unequivocally asserted that peacekeepers will quickly provide peace.

More than three years ago, in February 2015, during the meeting of the National Security and Defense Council, a call was made to the UN Security Council and the EU on the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent in Ukraine. In the spring of the same year, President Poroshenko asked the UN President to initiate the procedure for sending the relevant mission to the East. However, years passed, Russia in the future supported the separatists with food, arms, and troops, and the question of the peacekeepers hovered.

September 20 last year at a meeting of the UN General Assembly, Petro Poroshenko called for the soonest possible introduction of a peacekeeping mission into the territory of our country. The Ukrainian President cited irrefutable evidence of the presence of Russian military in Donbas, in particular, showed the passports of the detainees. He noted that the Russian Federation should stop supporting separatists, and representatives of the aggressor country should not be a part of the peacekeeping mission.

However, the request to immediately enter a peacekeeping mission does not mean that it will happen immediately. Until the foot of the first peacekeeper steps into the problem area, we have to wait months or even years. The delay is painful for the realities – Ukrainian military and civilians continue to perish in Donbas.


“UN peacekeeping missions – an instrument for achieving peace in the territory of countries that are conflicting, by introducing a UN peacekeeping contingent that operates within the framework of the UN Charter. The mandate of the mission is approved by the Security Council of this organization. The same body is responsible for the selection of representatives in the peacekeeping mission. On average, the preparatory phase of the mission and its approval by the UN Security Council has been going on for about two years. Now in the world, there are 16 UN peacekeeping missions” (From the book of Natalia Malynovska “Ukraine: 20.03.2014”).

There is no decision of the UN Security Council

The format of the UN peacekeeping mission, which is supported by Russia, was also of a debate. Only the president of the aggressor country, Putin, sees a possible contingent on the line of demarcation of Ukrainian troops and armed formations of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk, consisting of local collaborators and regular Russian military personnel. Our party does not accept this approach categorically: peacekeepers should be deployed throughout the occupied territory, up to the state border of Ukraine with the Russian Federation. The West is inclined towards the Ukrainian variant.

“Why is the theme of introducing peacekeepers slipping? Because Russia has its own comprehensive interpretation in this”, said to Opinion Oleh Saakyan, chairman of the Unified Coordination Center “Donbass”. “In its scenario, peacekeepers are actually a shield between the occupied and controlled territories of Ukraine, assigning Russia dominance over the seized territory: economic, financial, political, and shifting military spending to international communities. This is unacceptable for Ukraine. For us, a peacekeeping mission is possible throughout the occupied territory, including the Russian-Ukrainian border area. It should bring the moment of reintegration closer, remove military threats, encourage the withdrawal of the Russian military contingent from those territories”.

According to Mr. Saakyan, there are two irreconcilable positions, and this is logical, since the struggle of the Russian Federation continues not for the Ukrainian East, but against the sovereignty of our country. And for Ukraine it is actually a struggle for the survival of the state, and not just for the return of the occupied territories.

“There will be a difficult fate of the peacekeeping mission, because it must be large enough, where 18-20 thousand servicemen plus 4-5 thousand policemen”, said to Opinion Yevhen Magda, director of the Institute of World Politics. – This is large, quite expensive and are not easy by timing. First, we must take a political decision on such a mission at a meeting of the UN Security Council. And then within several months to coordinate its mandate, powers and the like. I’m afraid that this year we will not see the UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas. Actually, it will last at least until the presidential elections in Ukraine”.

Ihor Koziy, a military expert at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, expressed his opinion that the decision to create a peacekeeping contingent could be dragged on “for an indefinite long time”.

Nobody wants to die

So, the emergence of a peacekeeping contingent in Donbas depends on a political decision that the UN Security Council should declare (by the way, Russia is a permanent member of this Council and can veto any decision). People’s Deputy Dmytro Tymchuk, a member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security and Defense, also believes that this decision can be expected for a long time. The relevant structures do not pull with the fulfillment of the tasks assigned to them.

“As far as I know, the department dealing with the planning of UN peacekeeping operations, with the appropriate decision of the Security Council, is ready to start working right away,” Mr. Tymchuk assured Opinion. “After that, the UN can tell how much personnel, weapons, what kind of weapons the countries can provide for this, how the financial support of this operation should be, taking into account the material, technical, food and other factors”.

And how do those, who directly participated in peacekeeping operations see the situation? Oleh Martynenko, the Head of the Analytical Direction of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, at the end of the past and at the beginning of this millennium was a part of the peacekeeping missions of the UN Civilian Police first in Bosnia and Herzegovina and then in Kosovo.

“Peacekeeping contingent in reality will not fight, although in theory it should”, explained to Opinion, Mr. Martynenko. “They have heavy weapons, but frankly, none of the foreigners want to perish”. Therefore, the commanders of any military unit, whether from France, or from Holland will not open fire until the last moment. The best example was in Srebrenica (the events of 1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina – author’s note), where the Dutch regiment simply surrendered to Serbian units, and several thousand Muslims were slaughtered there”.

Yurii Grymchak, Deputy Minister for Temporary Occupied Territories and internally displaced persons, underlined the Yugoslav experience: “The closest thing for us, what happened in Eastern Slavonia, was the peacekeeping mission, disarmed militants, and an international administration was created. It became the Transitional Provisional Government, which controlled the territory and transferred it to the control of Croatia. This would be, perhaps, better for us”.

Walker was misunderstood

The United States supports our country in its efforts to deploy peacekeepers throughout the occupied territory, including the control of the Russian-Ukrainian border. This was repeatedly stated by US State Department Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Walker. Last week he visited Donbas. A number of media spread Walker’s words that it is impossible to return the lost territories of Ukraine by military means. Some experts noted that the words of the American worthy translated though verbatim, but taken out of context.

What an influential American really meant, on his page on Facebook, a politician Roman Bessmertny wrote: “Do not rush to shout “Treason!”. I carefully reviewed the interview of US Special Representative Kurt Walker at the BBC channel that Ukraine would not be able to return the territory seized by Russia. And I ask everyone to revise them again. In the original, and not in reprints or legends. Walker states that Ukraine, in the current situation, will not be able to return the occupied territory BY ITSELF. This means that the United States understands: Ukraine needs the assistance of the international community, so that our state can keep the situation under control and work on the return of Donbas”.

The details Mr. Bessmertny uncovered in the video on YouTube.

And what happens between the Americans and the Russians, or will the negotiations continue in the future? Oleh Saakyan said: “In recent months, the bilateral US-Russian format has stalled, paused through the pre-election period in Russia, the rotation of political elites after the elections. After Putin’s inauguration, it became possible to unfreeze it and hold a meeting. Thus, Kurt Walker has traditionally had a visit to Ukraine and thereby actually prompted the Russian Federation to decide on its own representative: either Surkov or someone else instead of Surkov”.

Peacekeepers and human rights

The staff of the peacekeeping mission lives next to the civilian population, and the peacekeepers are in close contact with the local residents. How much will their presence contribute to solving human rights problems in Donbas?

Oleh Martynenko explained how communication will take place: “This is very simply done. The so-called Police stations, or district departments like we call it, or military camps will be deployed, where the military contingent of a foreign unit will be located, where the residents complain about a violation of their rights unimportant by whom: Ukraine, Russia, the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk. They just complain, and patrolling, at any time of the day in settlements with such complaints and appeals, is provided”.

“We hope that together with the peacekeeping mission on territories that are not controlled by the Government of Ukraine, human rights activists will admit, formerly the leaders of the separatist republics expelled them from those areas, – said to Opinion Roman Avramenko, the Head of the NGO Truth Hounds. – Our organization has big plans for documenting war crimes, committed since the beginning of the conflict and documenting, which was impossible due to the closed territories. The combination of the presence of peacekeepers and human rights defenders has dramatically reduced the number of human rights violations reported almost daily. Now no civilians living in the territories of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk and the People’s Republic of Luhansk are not protected from the arbitrariness of armed people, who can throw anyone, without any justification, into the basement, take their property or beat them”.

Usually, the peacekeeping mission, in addition to the military and police contingents, also includes humanitarian units. They are closely associated with local residents.

“The international humanitarian organizations, that will work in the areas of the Occupied Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Regions after the introduction of peacekeepers, have considerable experience in conflict and post-conflict zones around the world, – Roman Avramenko assured. – So the International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, the Norwegian Refugee Committee, the UN Humanitarian Mission and others will not have any problems with quickly and effectively establishing interaction with the civilian population”.

Will the mission be delayed?

It is very important to make a decision on the peacekeeping mission, to deploy contingent in Donbas, but it is equally important to know how long it will take to settle the conflict.

“The peacekeeping mission can be delayed for at least a year – Yevhen Magda is convinced. – We need to understand that in order to do this, Russia has not kindled this conflict, so that everything can be closed quickly”.

“Now Putin decides what to be and what not to be. There is no powerful economic, political, military opposition to this man, – said Ihor Koziy. – And as a consequence, the policy will not change if there is no serious pressure from the European Union, and the state in which it is included, and the entrepreneurs that make up the economic base of this international structure, as well as the United States. Must understand this. In the meantime, trade representatives, enterprises of the EU member states trade with the aggressor, and this happens every day, every hour. Therefore, we cannot say that there is a significant pressure on the Russian Federation. Accordingly, the conflict will be protracted. If Afghanistan was lasting for 10 years, then in the case of Ukraine this can last much longer”.

Not all experts draw pessimistic scenarios, and this, somewhat, inspires hope that the horrors of war will soon remain in the past. Despite the complexity of the conflict, its decision can come quite quickly.

“In Croatia, everything ended in 2-3 years – the peacekeeping mission and the international administration,” said Yurii Grymchak. – And we must understand that unlike them, we do not have an internal conflict. This is the aggression of the Russian Federation. And so in this case, it seems to me that everything should be much easier for us”.

Dmytro Tymchuk has his own vision: “I am sure that if the Kyiv variant would be adopted and the peacekeepers take control of the state border with Russia and stop supplying of power weapons, Russian mercenaries and cadre military personnel to the territory of Donbas, then this operation could be completed within a year”.

Text: Viktor Tsvilikhovsky

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