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Russian project has been dismissed: OSCE monitors are in danger

Photo: novostipmr.com

The United States and Ukraine have dismissed Russia’s draft resolution to deploy UN peacekeepers in Donbass. It was not a surprise but a nuisance as any alternative to it will be contrary to the Minsk Agreement and even the UN Charter.

“The resolution was considered by the Security Council. Kiev and Washington said that they were no longer ready to discuss its text as they had serious remarks. Perhaps, Kiev will offer an alternative,” Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said on Sept 18.

On Sept 5, while in China, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin appeared with an initiative to reinforce the OSCE mission in Donbass with a UN contingent. On Sept 11, he discussed his proposal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and specified that the UN peacekeepers would escort OSCE observers during their inspectors of the contact line and the sides’ positions.

That was an attempt to find some solution that would be more or less compliant with the Minsk Agreement. Minsk 2 does not stipulate a UN contingent but Russia’s resolution sees it as part of the OSCE mission. The contingent would have no other role but to guard the OSCE observers during their inspections.

As a rule, independent UN contingent is sent only to conflict zones, while officially, there is no war in Ukraine. And it should be recognized by both parties, while Ukraine has not yet specified the party it is fighting with. Its law on Donbass’s “de-occupation” is not yet ready. What Ukraine wants is to see a UN contingent in the “anti-terrorist operation zone.” But the UN is not ready for this…

The key objection to Russia’s initiative was that deployment of peacekeepers along the contact line would mean “freezing of the conflict.” But this is normal for any settlement process: after signing a ceasefire agreement, conflicting parties generally deploy peacekeepers so as to freeze their conflict and to be able to settle it.

The Donbass conflict is a classic example of a conflict. The first three articles of the Minsk Agreement stipulate its freezing: ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy arms and OSCE monitoring – an ideal legal ground for a UN peacekeeping contingent.

The agreement specifies the conflicting parties: “the government of Ukraine” and “certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.” On the contact line, they are termed as “the Ukrainian troops” and “the armed formations of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.” Just note, they say, “armed formations… of Ukraine” rather than “illegal armed formations.” The signatures of a Kiev representative, a declaration of four presidents and a UN SC resolution have confirmed the legal intermediate status of the armed formations of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. One of the notes to the Minsk Agreement says that in future those formations may be transformed into people’s militia units. And this part has already been fulfilled: both Donetsk and Lugansk regions have their own people’s militia units.

Kiev terms the conflict in Donbass internal Ukrainian, that is, a civil war and keeps calling the other side “fighters,” “illegal armed formations,” “separatists,” “Russian terrorists,” “Russian occupants.” This is just propaganda and it has nothing to do with the international law.

One more good aspect of the Donbass conflict for the UN is that unlike the conflicts in Darfur or Burundi, it has a specific contact line with ceasefire zones on both sides. The Kiev regime has tried to move the war to the territory of Donbass and organized a number of terrorist attacks for this purpose but all of them failed.

From time to time, we register some incidents on the contact line as the conflict is still underway. But it is not fair to say that the conflict zone is the whole territory of Donetsk and Lugansk regions up to the Russian border. We might as well call a conflict zone the whole territory of Ukraine up to the Polish border. The problem is that the UN does not have enough resources for guarding the whole territory of Ukraine.

In Cyprus, UN peacekeepers guard only the 3-7 km wide security zone (the Green Line). They don’t control Cyprus’s ports or the sea area between Cyprus and Turkey. The Green Line guarantees peace while the parties negotiating a peaceful solution.

As a rule, peacekeepers divide warring parties. So, if the UN peacekeepers are deployed along the order of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions with Russia, this will mean that the warring parties in the Donbass conflict are Ukraine and its allies… Donetsk and Lugansk, on the one side, and Russia, on the other.

It is an axiom that peacekeepers should be deployed in areas that have suffered from fire and that need a ceasefire. You cannot deploy UN peacekeepers somewhere there has been no fire even if you are eager to see them there. The Kiev regime wants UN peacekeepers as a cover for something like Croatia’s Storm operation.

The other ten articles of the Minsk Agreement concern mostly political aspects, like elections in the republics, constitutional amendments concerning their status, economic obligations. The Kiev authorities are reluctant to fulfill them. This is why they have been torpedoing the agreement.

Former Ukrainian president, member of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine Leonid Kuchma has called Russia’s initiative a mockery. He said that peacekeepers’ presence would have sense only when Ukraine regains control over its border with Russia, while elections in the republics can be held only when they recognize the supremacy of the Kiev regime. “What elections are you talking about? We don’t need such deputies,” Kuchma said at the Yalta European Strategy forum in Kiev. On top of this, he suggested sending OSCE observers to Crimea.

Yes, the Minsk Agreement was composed within 17 hours, when the Ukrainian army was suffering a rout in Debaltsevo. Its authors had no time for making it perfect and there are some deficiencies in the text. For example, its article 10 concerns military aspects: “Withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under monitoring of the OSCE. Disarmament of all illegal groups.”

Here, Ukraine has played a trick: it has legalized its illegal groups and now insists on the implementation of article 10 as a prerequisite for the implementation of the political articles. “This is a matter of security! What elections are we talking about if Donbass is full of mercenaries?!” this is what they say.

But there are no mercenaries in Donbass. The Kiev regime would be happy to see such a term in the Minsk Agreement but they would better read article 47 of Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions (1977).

Its point “c” says that “a mercenary is any person who is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party.”

Ukraine needs just a few seconds to register a foreigner who has entered its territory. In contrast, only a court can prove if an armed foreigner who has crossed the border of Donetsk or Lugansk “was motivated by the desire for private gain” or by some ideological, political or any other motives. In other words, it is for a court to decide if a foreigner is a mercenary or not. So, when should one withdraw such people from the territory of Ukraine – before or after the court’s decision?

When Russian Viktor Ageev confessed that the Lugansk People’s Militia paid him 15,000 RUR a month, the Ukrainian military experts joked that “very soon Russians will agree to become mercenaries for just a plate of soup.” But 15,000 RUR is not much more than Donetsk and Lugansk combatants are generally paid. So, the boy has made fools of you. He is not mercenary but a combatant and he wants you to treat him well and exchange him according to the law. Of course, they in Kiev may now force him to confess that he was paid 150,000 RUR or even 1,500,000 RUR. The problem is that the text of the first interrogation has already been published.

I would advise the Kiev authorities to read the text of article 10 once more. It says, “withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine.” Not “from the territory of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine” but “from the territory of Ukraine.”

You say Javelins? The Americans keep supplying Ukraine with non-lethal weapons and are building a maritime operations center in Ochakov, NATO soldiers are marching along Kiev’s Khreshchatyk Avenue. All this is gross violations of the Minsk Agreement. And it is due only to Russia’s good will and patience that these violations are still unpunished.

The Minsk Agreement has more deficiencies but they don’t matter much. For example, article 2 does not mention Grad multiple rocket launchers but mentions Tornado-S, a system the Ukrainians do not have. But this is not a fatal mistake. The sides have agreed not to rewrite the text but to withdraw Tornados if they are available and to keep in mind Grads. What matters here is sincere will to fulfill the agreement - something the Ukrainians are reluctant to show even despite warnings that Minsk 3 will be even heavier for them.

Thus, Washington and Kiev have dismissed Moscow’s resolution on UN peacekeepers. They have also ignored The Washington Post’s voice in the wilderness. Mostly anti-Russian (as all U.S. mass media are), that daily admits that UN peacekeepers would help to implement the Minsk Agreement.

Nebenzya is not pessimistic: “We have not shelved the resolution. We will push it again once we see more favorable conditions.”

Thus, there will be no SC resolution but just a discussion where Russia will make it clear to its partners that their position is absurd.

This is all we can afford. As Ukrainian analyst claim, Putin is afraid of losing the next election, Russia may soon fall into 39 pieces and the United States will shortly place Ukraine under its protection. So, we better stop fooling around.

Jokes aside, we should be on the alert in the coming months as the Ukrainians may well organize some provocations against Donetsk and Lugansk and especially against OSCE monitors. And their goal is obvious: to show that Russia is revenging for the failure of its initiative.

Albert Akopyan (Urumov)

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