MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he supported the idea of sending peacekeepers to Ukraine in order to ensure security of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission in the crisis-torn region of Donbass and ordered the Foreign Ministry to submit a relevant resolution to the UN Security Council (UNSC) if certain conditions are met.
"I consider the presence of UN peacekeepers, even not peacekeepers, but people who would ensure the security of the OSCE mission, quite appropriate. I do not see anything bad in such developments. I consider that it would contribute to the settlement of the problem in Ukraine's southeast," Putin told reporters after the BRICS summit.
According to the Russian leader, the list of conditions includes the ensuring of the OSCE staff's security, the presence of the staff only at the disengagement line, pullout of heavy military equipment and involvement of the leadership of the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass in the process.
Later the same day, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said that Russia had sent the UN Security Council president a draft resolution on the UN mission in Ukraine, and intended to call consultations at the expert level and at the level of the UN ambassadors.
Kiev Ready to Work
Kiev is ready to start discussions on the UN peacekeeping mission in the Donbass region at the expert level, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko told reporters on Tuesday.
"We took careful note of the intention. I think the intention itself is good, we need to see the content of it," Yelchenko said. "We are ready to work at an expert level, even starting today."
Yelchenko explained that in the event that the draft resolution envisages the deployment of UN peacekeepers along the disengagement line in Donbass, it will be "totally unacceptable". The only way Ukraine would agree to the deployment of peacekeepers is along the Russian-Ukrainian state border, he added.
Ukraine Wants No Russians in Donbass Peacekeeping Mission
"If the decision is made to begin a peacekeeping operation, there can be no talk of the presence of military or other personnel of the aggressor side in the territory of Ukraine under the guise of peacekeepers, since this will contradict the basic principles of UN peacekeeping activity," the ministry said.
It also ruled out talks on the peacekeeping mission with the DPR and LPR.
Ukraine's Donbass Law Needs Amendments
The deployment of the UN peacekeepers in Donbass will be possible only with Kiev’s goodwill and only after Ukraine makes fundamentally important amendments to the law on the special status of the region, Russia’s envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine Boris Gryzlov said Wednesday.
"The deployment of the UN contingent on the contact line in the Donbass will become possible only after Ukraine introduces the fundamentally important amendments to the law on the special status of the Donbass. These amendments should be agreed upon in the contact group. They will concern the introduction of a special status on a permanent basis under the Steinmeier formula," Gryzlov said.
The "Steinmeier formula," a mechanism proposed by former German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, envisions holding local elections under OSCE oversight, which must confirm whether they met international standards. Upon the confirmation, the legislation establishing Donbas special status (de facto autonomy) would take effect.
Ukraine considers Russia’s proposals to deploy UN peacekeepers to Donbass to protect the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) peacekeepers in Donbass strange, but is ready to discuss the deployment of such mission in the region in the UN Security Council, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday.
"Russian proposal to deploy a UN mission specifically to protect the OSCE mission is strange to say the least," Poroshenko told the Ukrainian parliament.
According to the president, Ukraine is ready for a detailed discussion in the UN Security Council "and we call for the deployment of a full-scale UN mission in the whole of Donbass."
"The mission should meet UN principles, which a priori rules out the participation of the aggressor state or the sides to the conflict," Poroshenko added.
Kiev will not coordinate the parameters of work of UN peacekeepers in Donbass with local militias, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed, adding that the deployment of UN peacekeepers throughout the Donbass region would make it possible to achieve a real breakthrough in the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict.
"The deployment of UN Blue Helmets throughout Donbass would be a real breakthrough in the peace process, a powerful factor of de-escalation, would certainly create conditions for progress on the political track for the peaceful settlement in Donbass," the Ukrainian president said.
Representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics in eastern Ukraine supported on Wednesday the Russian concept of the deployment of UN peacekeepers in the conflict zone in Donbass, Gryzlov said after the meeting of the Contact Group, which comprises envoys from Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.
"We discussed the issue of the possible deployment of a contingent of the United Nations that would support and ensure the security of the OSCE mission in Donbas. The Russian delegation confirmed its position that this contingent should be deployed along the line of contact after forces and heavy weaponry of the conflicting sides have been pulled out from the line," Gryzlov said.
Representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk supported such a concept of the deployment of the UN contingent, Gryzlov added.
The complete lifting of sanctions from Russia will only take place after the implementation of the Minsk agreements in full, but Russia's proposal on a UN mission in Donbass is a step in this direction, German deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said at a briefing Wednesday.
"I want to say clearly that the complete lifting of sanctions will only take place after the full implementation of the Minsk agreements… The new proposal of the Russian president [on the UN mission] is a step, details are needed, we are ready to talk about this now, but we will be ready to talk about lifting the sanctions only if other numerous steps follow," she said.
Demmer said the German government welcomed Putin's proposal to send a UN mission to eastern Ukraine, but also recognized the vital importance of Kiev's proposal to involve UN peacekeepers across the entire Donbass conflict zone.
"Certain elements [of the peacekeeping mission idea] are especially important to us: first, that this mission could be deployed in the whole conflict region, not only along the contact line, and in this regard I would like to remind you that it is mainly the separatists who are preventing the OSCE SMM [Special Monitoring Mission] from fulfilling its mandate. This happens not only along the contact line, but primarily in the region of the Russian-Ukrainian border," Demmer said.
She added that it was unclear why the Donbass self-proclaimed republics should have a voice in the discussion of the peacekeeping mission on the national territory of Ukraine. "This would be an unacceptable overestimation of the significance of the authorities of the self-proclaimed republics," Demmer stated.
The option of having UN peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine is worth studying in an attempt to resolve the situation in the country, a US State Department official told Sputnik on Wednesday.
"We do believe the possibility of a UN peacekeeping force for eastern Ukraine is worth exploring as a means of protecting Ukrainian citizens, regardless of ethnicity or nationality, and as a pathway to restoring Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," the official stated.
"Any such force should have a broad mandate for peace and security throughout the occupied territory in Ukraine, up to and including the border with Russia, in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine…. Our goals are simple: restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and protect Ukrainians no matter what their religion, ethnicity or language," the official stated.
The official reiterated that the United States believed it was important to improve the security situation as a first step.
"[The United States has] called repeatedly for Russia to ensure a real and durable ceasefire, disengage along the line of contact, withdraw heavy weapons, and allow full, unfettered, and safe access to the international monitors including to the international border," the official added.
French Politician Welcomes Russia's Initiative
The member of the French center-right The Republicans party, Thierry Mariani, said the Russian initiative was reasonable.
"It is a good initiative. In the past for the French Parliament I was on the line of ceasefire and I spoke with the OSCE observers, who explained me how dangerous this job was, especially, during the past months. If we have a clear idea about the situation and clear understanding about their (UN mission)duties and responsibilities, this proposal is a good initiative. If all the parties involved are interested in peace, everybody should accept it," Mariani, who is also a co-president of the Franco-Russian Dialogue Association, told Sputnik.
Mariani added that the initiative might complement the Minsk agreements. "It is absolutely logical, even if this initiative is not a part of the Minsk accord, that it is in the line with this agreement because some of its [Minsk] provisions talk about security guarantees," he said.
Kiev launched a military operation in the east of Ukraine in 2014, after local residents refused to recognize the new government that came to power then. The ceasefire agreement was reached in Minsk in 2015, brokered by the leaders of the Normandy Four group, but the situation has remained tense.