Putin suddenly wants armed peacekeepers in Donbas. Why now? What for?

Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. Georgia, 2008.

Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. Georgia, 2008. 

News, Russia, Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has proposed sending armed peacekeepers to Donbas, but only to the border between Russia’s proxy “republics” and Ukrainian controlled territory, leaving the Russian-Ukrainian border unmonitored and open for providing the Russian-backed militants with Russian fuel, weapons, and manpower. Starting from 2015, Russia had sabotaged Ukraine’s efforts to deploy armed peacekeepers to Donbas. Russia’s proposal is likely to freeze the conflict, not establish peace in the war zone.

Having ignored all previous Ukrainian proposals to deploy UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, Putin now claims that Russia is drafting a resolution for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to send peacekeepers to patrol the front line in the Donbas. What is the reason for such a shift in Russian policy and where is the catch?

Putin’s peacekeepers for the Donbas

On 5 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin told at a press briefing after a BRICS summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen that Russia intends to draft a resolution for consideration of the United Nations Security Council, suggesting lightly armed UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine, where war between government forces and Russian-backed militants has entered its fourth year. Peacekeeping troops could provide safety for the ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which travel across Donbas to monitor the observance of a ceasefire outlined by the Minsk agreements to stop the war.

The Russian president stressed that the potential UN mission should operate only on the contact line between Ukrainian and Russian-hybrid forces, effectively – the border between territories controlled and uncontrolled by the Ukrainian government.

It would be useful “to resolve the problem in Ukraine’s southeast,” suggested Putin.

The Russian president thinks, “And this decision cannot be made without direct contact with representatives from the self-proclaimed Donbas republics, DNR and LNR.”

Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian envoy to the UN, said that there were no immediate plans to call for a vote on the proposed resolution. “We are not talking about voting yet. We are circulating it for consideration,” he told reporters.

Background

Back in 2014 and 2015, representatives of Ukraine and Russia signed two ceasefire agreements under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to halt the war in the eastern Ukrainian region of the Donbas. The Minsk Protocol was signed on 5 September 2014, so-called Minsk II was signed in January 2015 to revive the failed Minsk Protocol. Both agreements didn’t stipulate any foreign peacekeeping forces in the Ukrainian territory. Moreover, both explicitly demand the pullout of all foreign armed formations, equipment, mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine.

In March 2015, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko sent an official letter to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the UN Security Council, asking to deploy a peacekeeping mission to the Ukrainian territory under the auspices of the United Nations. This letter was distributed on 2 April 2015 as an official document of the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Read also: Ukraine’s Security Council to appeal to UN on introducing peacekeeping forces

Since then, Russia kept sabotaging Ukraine’s proposals to deploy UN peacekeepers to the Donbas. In June 2016, Russia even claimed that Ukraine had never made such request to the UNSC.  Russia ruled out any possibility of a UN peacekeeping operation in the Donbas. Until yesterday.

Ukraine’s stance on Putin’s proposal

Результат пошуку зображень за запитом "map donbas site:euromaidanpress.com"

A map of Donbas. Pink marks the territories uncontrolled by the Ukrainian government. The “line of contact” is the border between ORDLO and territory under the control of the Ukrainian government

Ukraine has reacted harshly to Vladimir Putin’s proposal, stressing that peacekeepers should be deployed over the whole territory uncontrolled by the government, and especially the Russian-Ukrainian border currently uncontrolled by Ukraine, and not only on the boundary between ORDLO (areas of Donbas under control of the Russian proxy “Donetsk and Luhansk Republics,” pink on the map above) like Vladimir Putin suggests.

The Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a comment regarding Putin’s statement on the prospect of deployment of UN peacekeepers in the Donbas. The key points of the MFA comment are:

  • The deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation could contribute to the restoration of peace and security in the east of Ukraine.
  • Any international peacekeeping presence must be deployed by consent of and after extensive consultations with the Ukrainian side.
  • It must involve the withdrawal of all occupation troops and mercenaries.
  • It must ensure reliable control over the Ukrainian-Russian border to prevent Russian military, weapons, equipment, and mercenaries from infiltrating the Ukrainian territory
  • Any presence of military or other personnel of the aggressor state in the territory of Ukraine disguised as peacekeepers would be out of the question.
  • Ukraine is ready to address the initiative to deploy a UN peacekeeping operation in the Donbas.

MP Iryna Herashchenko, a Ukraine’s humanitarian envoy to the Minsk talks group, wrote on her Facebook page, “The confrontation line has become a confrontation line because of Russia’s aggression.” Peacekeepers should be deployed over the whole Ukrainian territory currently uncontrolled by Kyiv “to monitor the security situation and demilitarization,” Herashchenko said, and “their mandate should end on the Ukrainian-Russian border.”

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Volodymyr Yelchenko said the mission should also be deployed on the border between Russia and Ukraine to help monitors report on flows of weapons and fighters coming from Russia.

International reaction

Germany has welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agreement to send UN peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that he was “very pleased to see this first signal” that Putin “wants to further discuss a demand which Russia had rejected in the past, namely, the use of… a blue-helmet mission in eastern Ukraine to implement the cease-fire.” According to Gabriel, “More importantly, this offer of a UN mission in eastern Ukraine shows that Russia has undergone a change in its politics that we should not gamble away.”

Later, spokesman for the Germany’s Federal Foreign Office Martin Schaefer stressed in a statement, “The practice of engaging separatists in the negotiation process on peacekeeping in this or that region is unacceptable and unknown to the UN.”

“It is inappropriate to talk only about the contact line because the separatists are hampering the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s access throughout the eastern part of Ukraine, and not only along the contact line,” clarified Schaefer.

Why now and what’s wrong

There can be several explanations why Russia has put forward the peacekeeping initiative and why it has happened now.

Attempt to relegate the Ukrainian initiatives to the background

Since 2015, Ukraine kept proposing to deploy a UN peacekeeping mission to the Donbas. However, Ukraine demands to regain control over the Ukraine-Russian border to cut off Russian supplies for Russian hybrid forces in the occupied territories and deploy UN peacekeepers all across the uncontrolled territory. Meanwhile, Russia proposes to station the mission along the contact line, retaining Russia’s control of the conflict zone. Such a step would turn the line of the contact into the de-facto state border.

Slender hope to legalize the Russian troops in Ukrainian territory

Russia may still hope to freeze the conflict in the Donbas using the same scenario it has applied in Moldova and Georgia, namely legalizing the stay of Russian troops in the occupied territory as peacekeeping forces. Re-deploying the Russian forces as peacemakers would bypass the Minsk II paragraph demanding the pullout of all foreign armed formations.

Hope for easing sanctions while leaving the conflict unresolved

First of all, Russia’s change of heart regarding the UN peacekeepers in the Donbas shows that international sanctions work. Russia seeks to ease the sanctions, displaying peace efforts as a signal that it tries to reduce its involvement in the Donbas conflict. The Russian initiative may look like agreeing to one of the key Ukrainian demands.

But the Russian proposal, if implemented, would freeze the conflict. Even if the UN peacekeeping mission won’t include Russian troops, Putin wants to deploy the UN forces along the contact line, separating the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts from the rest of Ukraine. This means that 408 km of the Ukrainian border with Russia would remain under control of Russia’s puppet Luhansk and Donetsk “people’s republics,” keeping intact Russia’s channels of supplying the occupied territory with manpower, arms, equipment, fuel, foodstuffs.

Lower expenses for running the fake republics

Putin’s initiative also implies lower expenses for Russia. Russian-hybrid troops would get lower wages, having no possibility to conduct bombardments to get so-called “battle bonuses,” less ammunition would be consumed, less manpower from Russia would be required.

Russia failed to sell its proxy “republics” to Ukraine to make the conflict’s host state fund them while they would remain under Russian control. Last winter, the Russian Government made the first steps on the path leading to the further recognition of the LNR and DNR as independent states by Russia. Earlier, Russia made the same steps in two Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, occupied since the 1990s, to recognize their independence in 2008 just after the Russo-Georgian war.

Read also: Policy shift shows Russia preparing to recognize its puppet republics in Donbas

Another Russian attempt to distance itself from the conflict

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry highlights in its comment:

The information published by mass media concerning the statement by the President of the Russian Federation shows that Russia, as a party to the conflict, once again attempts to present its aggression as an internal Ukrainian conflict and distort the very idea and purposes of launching a peacekeeping operation, which would not work towards achieving the principal objective of establishing sustainable peace in Donbas and restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Nevertheless, the Russian proposal once again shows that Russia keeps its puppet republics under full control. The leadership of the LNR and DNR have never endorsed the idea to deploy the international peacekeepers or to arm the monitors of the OSCE. In 2016, the occupation authorities staged several-thousand strong rallies in Donetsk and Luhansk “against armed missions in Donbas.”  And now just after the Putin’s statement, both “republics” support the Russian proposal to deploy UN mission to the Donbas.

Argument against sending US lethal military aid to Ukraine

Another reason why Putin has voiced such an initiative right now may be connected to processes in the White House, which is in the midst of making a decision on whether to send a package of lethal defensive military aid to Ukraine. Putin’s peace initiative is another false argument for the White House to refuse arming Ukraine. The argument can be worded as “why give lethal aid if there is no hot conflict now?”

Other arguments against giving lethal arms to Ukraine were mentioned in Russian and Western media, such as:

  • “Sending lethal weapons to Ukraine would cause a rift between the United States and its main European allies, Germany and France, which are leading diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict.”
  • Sending lethal weapons to Ukraine “is a recipe for military escalation.” “It would be reasonable to expect that the rebels will be armed with more modern hardware if U.S. supplies start coming in. That can only make the war even deadlier.”
  • Arming Ukraine, “the United States is walking into a proxy war with Moscow.”

At the same press conference in China, where Putin made a statement about the Russian peacekeeping proposal, he has also criticized the intention of the Trump Administration to give lethal arms to Ukraine. Of course, Putin repeated the “argument” that providing Ukraine with defensive weapons would escalate the conflict. The Russian President warned, “Supplying weapons to a conflict zone is not conducive to peace, it just aggravates the situation.” That’s true, and that is the reason why Russia keeps supplying tanks and other military equipment to the conflict zone. Unfortunately, Putin didn’t explain how defensive weapons can aggravate the situation.

And the Russian president threatened that his puppet republics would assault other Ukrainian territories outside the conflict zone. “It’s hard to imagine how the self-declared republics would respond. Perhaps they would deploy weapons to other conflict zones,” Putin said.


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  • veth

    To protect the Russian occupation of Donbass.

    • Rafael Hernandez

      The current agression comes from the Ukrainian army

      • Victor Victory

        Is that what Putin told you live on RT?

      • W8post

        if you call “DEFENDING YOUR COUNTRY”, agression, you’re right!

      • zorbatheturk

        Wrong, maggot.

      • svend lykkegaard

        At last. I havnt seen a Russian Troll for a long time. But now I am happy. It is always funny to read comment from Russia, They are alway stupid, funny but stupid, mayby that is normal in Russia, to being stupid I mean.

        • LES1

          Russia identified as Neanderthals’ last refuge

          According to a new study, a prehistoric tool kit and butchered bones unearthed in Russia’s Ural mountains suggest that Neanderthals may have existed there, till as recently as 33,000 years ago.

          Contrary to popular belief that modern ‘humans’ began to replace Neanderthals starting around 75,000 to 50,000 years ago, the study marks the Urals as their last refuge around 33,000 years ago, reports Discovery News.

  • Rafael Hernandez

    To stop the Ukrainian ary violate the minsk agreement. Under the minsk agreement no party is allowed to advance their frontline. Ukraine has breached this rule, and must be stopped, even the Osce veryfies this information

    • Victor Victory

      Translation: I watch Russian propaganda, I don’t know what I am talking about.

    • W8post

      the FRONTLINE, is at the Russian BORDER!

    • Eddy Verhaeghe

      Rafael, remember the taking of Debaltseve with the help of regular RF Army units… But that is probably not a breach of Minsk II for you, isn’t it?

      • Rafael Hernandez

        The article states prefectly well that Pro-Russian seperatists violated the Minsk agreement early on, however All the later violations came from the Ukrainain army

        • Eddy Verhaeghe

          The article doesn’t say anything, I repeat anything about violations by the so-called ‘Pro-Russian seperatists’ of the Minsk agreement early on. On top of that the article states that ‘the pro-Kyiv troops have sparked bloody clashes with their enemy, which has reportedly made advances of its own — or tried to — in recent weeks.’

          I think you urgently need to take reading classes of English 😉

  • W8post

    “It would help resolve the problem in eastern Ukraine,” suggested Putin.
    the PROBLEM, he, Puto, himself provoked! PEACE-KEEPERS? for WHAT peace?
    get the føck out of the Donbas, and PEACE returns by itself, Tzar Puto!

  • laker48

    Ukraine shouldn’t even waste its time to address this proposal and say “no” right of the bat. The only acceptable proposal would be the deployment of heavily armed non-RuSSian UN peacekeeper throughout the terrorist-occupied Ukrainian territory and along the RuSSian-Ukrainian border.

  • Tony

    The agressor state has no say about this conflict at the UN, they will only want to advance their own military goals not fix the pet problem they created.

  • Eolone

    What peacekeeper wants to patrol in a minefield? There would be much preparatory work to be done first, taking months; and after it’s clear, would the pro-Russian rebels honor their commitment? Or drive tanks through?

  • Dennis

    Putin wants to avoid any Ukraine Army advances, plain and simple. With additional defensive weapons supplied by the USA, Ukraine could push back against the Kremlin-backed rebels and Russian soldiers in Donbas. This would have a severe negative impact on Putin’s popularity in an election year. Dead Russian soldiers being shipped as CARGO 200 out of Donbas to Russian cemeteries does not increase Putin’s ratings with Russian voters.

    • laker48

      The best time to ship the Javelins to Ukraine will be late fall and winter when those laser-guided, heat-seeking missiles will be extremely deadly to RuSSian crews manning RuSSian tanks in Donbas.

      • Czech Mate

        Why do they even talk about it? Why not ship, tutor and then deny with big fat smile on the face?

        That ruSSky skum thinks only he can play the game…?

        • laker48

          The problem is corruption, still rampant in Ukraine. The Javelins will have to be under total control of private contractors of the US Army and Ukrainians would be allowed to handle them just minutes before launching.

          • Czech Mate

            sure but what about less expensive substitutes? I am sure something viable could be worked out, something better than-you-know nothing right now.

          • laker48

            Canada stopped a shipment of TOWs to Ukraine at the end of the Harper government term. I don’t think the cost is a factor, as the older, 2.5 km range missiles are being replaced by the US Army with the latest 4.5 km range generation. Ukraine manufactures its own antitank missiles Stugna-P with the top attack mode and 4 km range.

          • Czech Mate

            first I would be amazed if Ukraine already didn’t come up with list of propositions of things it believes it needs the most. Second the public annoucement would a bit*slapping of Putler for all the world to see, something all Western leaders have been succesfully bullied from attempting. Ego is Putler’s achilles heel. When he is repeatedly embarassed, he will quickly lose his grip on the ruSSky throne.

            But above all, I believe Ukraine should have been armed in non public way and everything else denied Putler style. I simply feel West is just reacting and not attacking the rat which it definately should be doing to finish this quagmire.

          • laker48

            I think, from the 20/20 hindsight, that the decision to freeze the conflict three years ago was the right one. The Ukrainian army was in shambles and the government corrupt beyond imagination. Now corruption has been significantly reduced and Ukraine has almost 300 thousand strong army trained by the Americans, Brits, Canadians and Poles to the NATO standards, while Dwarfstan is way much weaker than three years ago. The 1995 Croatian Operation Storm was being prepared for almost five years with the help of US Army private sector contractors, while the Ukrainian military is being trained by NATO. Playing for time that emaciates RuSSia by the month and makes the Ukraine military stronger seems to be the right long-term strategy. Keep in mind that the US plans to enter European oil and LNG markets and this requires squeezing RuSSia out of them, but this will take time and increasing US NG liquefaction and LNG shipment capacity that is now about 85 bcm per year. It’ll take five years to reeach 210 bcm per year in 2022.

          • Eddy Verhaeghe

            But Stugna is not a FAF or 3rd generation anti-tank missile

          • laker48

            Byt they’re connected to their CLUs with fiber optic wiring, very much like Spike missiles (dual target-seeking mode).

    • Czech Mate

      Bingo, sir. This is it for Putler!

  • zorbatheturk

    The only problem in southeast Ukraine is a RuSSian invasion ordered by one V. Putin.

  • Murf

    Russian Peace Keepers = UN legal Russian Colonial Occupiers.
    This simple equation is all you need to know about why Putin’s plan should not be carried out.
    The US has already said they will only agree to Peace Keepers through out Donbas not just on the line of contact.
    So the US is already on to his game and are not going to give him what he wants.
    The good news is that any plan put before the UNSC will have a Ukraine veto.
    Which means it will never get adopted.
    Frankly I am not overly impressed with UN Peace Keeping missions.
    A Peace Keeping force, no matter how large or well equipped, are only as effective as their Rules of Engagement allow them to be.
    In Seaira Leon back in the 90s a vicious rebel group was over running the country. the government hired a privet contractor company, “Executive Outcomes” to train their sad sack army. The contractors (South African mercenaries) quickly realized that the SL Army was beyond hope. The 300 odd EO’s Mercs started conducting their own ops and quickly drove the rebels ba into the jungle.
    The UN stepped in demanded the Mercs leave and replaced them with 14k Peace Keepers.
    Rebels returned and took the capitol in 6 months.
    UN Peace Keeping missions always have unclear, and unrealistic ROEs. convoluted chains of command and specially no balls.
    Read about the UN peace keeping operation during the Bosnian War and the Massacre of Srebrenica for an example. Remember the DPR/LPR are worse then the Serbs.
    By contrast the NATO sponsored peace keeping mission in Bosnia went smoothly.
    Why?
    Because the NATO boys were serious and went in with a no BS attitude.
    Put in Blue Helmets in Donbas will just give the Russian Mercenaries someone new to bullie.