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Peacekeeping mission in Donbass would mean an end to the republics

Should peacekeepers be deployed in Donbass, the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics will be dismantled. However, there are no real prerequisites for such a scenario and such discussions are just a part of some diplomatic game, said experts interviewed by EADaily.

According to the military correspondent from Donetsk Marina Kharkova, the republics believe that should a UN peacekeeping force be deployed in Donbass, they will be forcibly given back to Ukraine – no matter where the peacekeepers will be from. “This would mean unconditional return of the republics to Ukraine and an end to their hopes to integrate with Russia. Let’s remember what happened in Serbia. Once NATO deployed the Kosovo Force, the Serbs lost territories, people, economy and all guidelines and now – after all that bloodshed – they are going to join the EU, an organization that sponsored that tragedy. Put it crudely, the victims are going hats in hands to their murderers,” Kharkova said.

She believes that the same thing may happen in Donbass. “The armies of the republics will be reduced or disbanded and the peacekeepers will do nothing to protect their special rights. The goal of such a mission is local elections and flags of Ukraine all over Donbass. This is the plan of Poroshenko and Rasmussen (former NATO Secretary General, currently Poroshenko’s adviser - EADaily),” Kharkova said.

She does not know what exactly U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker agreed on with the Russian President’s assistant Vladislav Surkov. “At first, Russia insisted on a peacekeeping mission that would just guard OSCE observers. But now Russian mass media are giving people the idea that Donbass needs peacekeepers as the Minsk agreements have failed and the sides need a new format for putting an end to their war,” Kharkova said.

She doubts that the sides will come to terms on this issue. “A few days ago, the Russian President’s Spokesman Mr. Peskov said that Kiev should respect Donbass’s position on the matter. Kiev said that it will not negotiate anything with the ‘separatists.’ The republics will react the way Moscow will tell them to react. But it is not clear what exactly Moscow wants. The sides have made too many contradictory statements on this problem and it is not clear how it will be solved. But people have neither optimism nor faith here. They are tired of the war, its consequences, the social-political experiments on Russians and the lies in mass media. A peacekeeping mission in Donbass would mean an end to its republics and their reintegration into the pro-Nazi Ukrainian state. Kiev’s promises that it will meet its political commitments and will establish peace and stability in Donbass are just propaganda tricks,” Kharkova said.

She believes that the deployment of any foreign soldiers – be they Austrians, Finns, Swedes or Brazilians – would be more like a foreign occupation than a peacekeeping mission. “Concerning Belarussians - whom Kiev does not want to keep peace in Donbass – they will not be able to protect the interests of Donbass as they will do only what the UN will tell them to do,” Kharkova said.

Former Defense Minister of Donetsk People’s Republic Igor Strelkov is also sure that no matter what the peacekeeping mission will look like, it will ruin the Donbass republics.

“Rasmussen’s plan stipulates the deployment of almost 20,000 soldiers and 4,000 policemen. At least, this is what Kiev wants to see. Poroshenko insists that the mission should not involve the countries bordering on Russia and that the peacekeepers should be deployed not only along the contact line but all over the territory of Donbass. A 24,000-strong force for just separating conflicting parties is too much. It is obvious that this army will be able to occupy the whole territory of the Donbass republics. Moscow has not yet said either yes or no. Lavrov is optimistic and sees some sense in this initiative, at least, he says that they can be negotiated. But for Russia, a foreign peacekeeping operation in Donbass would mean a serious fallback,” Strelkov said.

He is anxious to hear the Kremlin saying that the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics are Ukrainian territories with some ‘special status’ but hopes that it is just maneuvering so as to avoid new outbursts before the elections.

“But this concession will backfire on the Russians one day and will hardly be regarded as the last one by the West. The promises some European foreign ministers are giving now may quickly be broken once Moscow gives in. They in the West will not lift their sanctions even if the Russians accept their plan. Moreover, it will lay new claims concerning Crimea. They did the same in Yugoslavia: they first forced Milosevic to cede Bosnia and Serbian Krajina, then they forced him to cede Kosovo, then they sent him to The Hague, where he died. And now they are trying to do the same with respect to Russia,” Strelkov said.

Senior researcher at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Oleg Nemensky noted that a peacekeeping mission in Donbass was one of the key topics at the Munich security conference but the sides failed to come to terms on it.

“The problem is not with the format of the mission but with the concept of the conflict – who are the conflicting parties and who will the peacekeepers separate? Ukraine has adopted a law saying that the conflict is between Ukraine and Russia, which is contrary to the Minsk agreements. Russia will insist that the peacekeepers should separate Ukraine and Donbass, but this requires a peace process between those sides. So, we will hardly see any accord among the sides – simply because their concepts of the conflict are different. A peacekeeping mission the way Russia sees it would help to freeze the conflict and to cease fire, while for Ukraine, this mission is a way to guarantee its sovereignty over Donbass, in other words, they in Kiev want the peacekeepers to help them to get back the republics by means of force. Until they meet the requirements of the Minsk agreement and enter direct talks with Donetsk and Lugansk, this problem will hardly be solved,” Nemensky said.

President of the Institute for National Strategic Studies Mikhail Remizov suggests that this whole talk about peacekeeping in Donbass is supposed to give the appearance of a breakthrough in the peace process. “Today Russia and Germany (at least some forces) are interested in creating favorable conditions for the Nord Stream 2 project. A semblance of peace in Donbass might help them in the matter. But this will be just an illusion as the sides have no unanimity on this problem: the Russians want the peacekeepers to be just a part of the OSCE observation mission, while the Americans and the Ukrainians want them to be a police force that will help them to regain control over Donbass. And I see no ground for a compromise here. This may happen only if Russia changes its position, but I see no signs that it is going to do it.” Remizov said.

“The peacekeeping operation in Yugoslavia made things even worse. For the Russians, the good examples of peacekeeping were Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but they will hardly be able to do this in Donbass. In Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, peacekeeping missions followed their military victories over their former mother countries, where Russia acted as a mediator and helped those mother countries to maintain the status quo and to avoid an eventual overthrow. This scenario is acceptable for Russia, but we see no prerequisites for it in Donbass,” Remizov said.

The talk about an armed mission along the contact line in Donbass started last autumn, when Russia let the OSCE mission arm itself in order to protect its observers. The Russians sent the UN a draft resolution on a peacekeeping mission in Donbass with attached proposals. Recently Poroshenko’s advisor Anders Fogh Rasmussen appeared with his own proposals stipulating deployment of thousands of foreign peacekeepers not only along the contact line but all over Donbass. Rasmussen suggests involving peacekeepers from Sweden, Austria, Belarus, Latin America (Chile, Argentina, Brazil), Mongolia, Portugal and Greece.

Kristina Melnikova

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