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25 January 2016

UN Peacekeepers is the Path to Ceasefire and Ending the Civilian Deaths in Donbas

Periodically, since February 2015, Ukrainian leaders have been making statements about the need for the United Nations (UN) peacekeepers and possibly inviting the European Union’s security mission.

UN peacekeeping means that between the conflict parties there will be an international light-armed contingent wearing blue helmets and symbols of the United Nations and whose representatives will act within the framework of the mandate, first and foremost, to prevent the resumption of hostilities and new civilian casualties.

UN peacekeepers are as a rule introduced in consultation with all parties, including the de facto authorities on the ground, after a technical field assessment and the mandate of the UN Security Council (mainly based on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter). Peacekeepers are most effective in maintaining the ceasefire and preventing the re-escalation of the conflict.

Later on, there were statements by Ukraine, that the relevant documents had been submitted to the United Nations headquarters, as well as mixed signals from Russia (mainly against the introduction of peacekeepers).

Since Russia has a veto power in the UN Security Council, until she is recognized as a party to the conflict, without her it will be impossible to receive a mandate to carry out such an operation.

The UN has been present in the Donbas continuously since March 2014 on the level of monitoring and humanitarian missions. There are many international organizations providing humanitarian assistance. There is the special monitoring mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is mentioned in the Minsk Agreement. But it is not very effective in the Donbas conditions, being a civilian mission, unarmed and with therefore limited possibilities of monitoring the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the demarcation line. Any armed person can stop the movement of the OSCE monitors, and it allows to almost freely move weapons, keep them near the front, open fire, accusing the opposing party of violating the ceasefire.

UN peacekeepers is a completely different level, it is an armed contingent, which deployment is not in the interest of those who desire the continuation of the war, the deaths of civilians. From this point of view any further rhetoric should be analyzed.

The presence of international organizations in conflict areas sheds light on violations of human rights law, international humanitarian law, inability or unwillingness of the de facto authorities to properly perform their obligations to protect civilians.

It should be remembered that primarily the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as other global organizations are acting according to the humanitarian principles, are independent and objective, and use all means to protect the civilian population, not to spy or help either party in achieving its military objectives. In the meantime, preventing the provision of aid to the civilian population is a violation of international law.

There is a probability of an armed contingent of UN peacekeepers in the Donbas, but today it is very low. Russia and the armed groups under its control can dramatically change their position on the peacekeepers in the future, when the issue will be how to keep the occupied territories, and not how to expand them. Though, most likely, it will be too late.

Currently many people - from all sides - are interested in maintaining the status quo, as it means enrichment by corruption at the demarcation line, kickbacks from rebuilding works, theft of assistance and an insurance against political risks (while the lack of conditions for a normal life, any changes for the better can be written off to war, political opponents can be accused of treason and persecuted).

You have to understand that the UN peacekeepers - not a panacea, they can be accommodated if the parties to the conflict agree to it, and most likely will not use force, except in self-defense, that is, would avoid direct involvement in the conflict.

If the UN peacekeepers do not get invited, Ukraine may eventually be able to retake Donetsk and Luhansk, and push the remains of the occupying forces and armed groups to the border. In the case of the UN peacekeeping, Ukraine will have to compromise and look for options of how to return the political process in the uncontrolled territories to its legal framework.

However - this is an important step for the most important stage of any conflict - saving lives and proceeding to the settlement.

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The main theses were presented in the Radio Liberty's program "Donbas Realities" with Oleksiy Matsuka on the topic: "Will the UN peacekeepers come to Donbas?" (01/13/2016)

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