On September 21, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that the main obstacle to the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Ukraine is Kyiv’s position toward Moscow. “Given the position that Russia allegedly is an aggressor, of course, there is hardly room for maneuver. Because this position is absolutely contrary to the real state of affairs,” Peskov said. Russia, he added, is not a “party to Ukraine’s domestic conflict,” but instead serves as a “guarantor of the settlement process.”
Polygraph.info has regularly fact-checked Russia’s claims about not being a party to the conflict in Ukraine and found them to be false.
The discussions around a proposed UN peacekeeping mission for Ukraine intensified last week after Putin surprisingly announced that Russia might be more flexible about a possible expansion of a UN mission in Ukraine.
However, a UN Security Council draft resolution reportedly prepared by Russia includes conditions that belie Putin’s stated flexibility, with Moscow insisting on limiting the mission’s mandate to Ukraine’s internal regional borders instead of covering the entire conflict zone.
Daniel Fried, a career U.S. diplomat and a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Polygraph.info that Russia’s latest “modified proposal” is a “trap” into which the U.S. is “not going to fall.” Russia’s vision, he said, has a problem: “it will, of course, freeze the conflict” instead of resolving it, and, if approved by the UN, “will be in a sense ratifying Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”
Russia’s proposal, he said, should not be a subject of negotiations with the U.S.: “I don’t think we need to negotiate with Russia about the disposition of UN peacekeepers in a third country, Ukraine.”
Following Putin’s announcement, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine and support for a UN peacekeeping mission being given a broader mandate than that envisioned by Moscow.
” I want to be clear about this, and that is any such force should have a broad mandate for peace and security throughout the occupied territory of Ukraine up to and including the border with Russia in order to avoid deepening or institutionalizing the divisions inside Ukraine,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.
Aleksey Pushkov, Chairman of the Commission on Information Policy in Russia’s Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, responded to Nauert’s statement via Twitter. “There is no basis for the deployment of peacekeepers on the border between the DNR/LNR and Russia,” Pushkov tweeted. “It is a zone of peace and tranquility. So let them deal with the zone of tension.”
DNR and LNR are the Russian abbreviations for “the Donetsk People’s Republic” and “the Lugansk People’s Republic,” the two self-declared entities established by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions bordering Russia.
However, despite Pushkov’s claim that this area is a “zone of peace and tranquility,” a recent UN report states that the “ongoing tensions” in eastern Ukraine “pose danger for civilians,” and that the economic situation there is “grim.”
“From 16 May to 15 August 2017, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine recorded 26 conflict-related civilian deaths and 135 injuries. At least 2,803 civilians have been killed, and between 7,000 and 9,000 civilians injured during the conflict overall,” the UN reported on September 12.
“The socio-economic situation in eastern Ukraine continued to deteriorate. Hardships caused by the hostilities, measures hindering economic prosperity, and rising unemployment have led to increased levels of poverty on both sides of the contact line,” the UN Human Rights Office reported.
According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, 13,000 people have fled eastern Ukraine in 2017 because of the conflict. As of 2016, the total number of internally displaced persons in Ukraine was 1,653,000, in addition to 239,000 granted refugee status abroad.
According to an assessment by the World Bank, the conflict in eastern Ukraine “has had a significant and detrimental impact on human welfare, and on social and economic conditions generally.” The report stated that “freezing” the conflict “would aggravate the distress of people in eastern Ukraine, and likely lead to additional waves of displacement,” and “very likely worsen the conflict.”