The Representative of Ukraine to the European Union, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev, says that the deployment of an EU mission in the Donbas would be a step towards “real, not virtual” settlement of the conflict.In particular, it would help to restore control over the Ukrainian-Russian border and pave the way for “free and democratic” local elections in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, he says. He was responding to the recent initiative of Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko to appeal to the UN Security Council and the EU Council to deploy an international peacekeeping and security operation in Ukraine.
The current ceasefire deal between the two sides in the bitter conflict, which was greed in Minsk in February, appears to be holding. More than 6,000 lives have been lost in the civil war which started 12 months ago.
But, in an interview, the ambassador said, “Russia and pro-Russian militants regularly violate the ceasefire and provoke clashes and obstruct the activities of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in the areas controlled by them.
“This is exactly why there is an urgent need to provide an additional and effective international presence on the ground to restore peace in the Donbas.”
He added,”Deployment of an EU operation would become a step towards real, not virtual settlement of the conflict.”
“I would like to remind you as well that Ukraine has every right to expect specific practical political and security support from the EU.
“Above all, the Ukrainian initiative is consistent with the spirit of Ukraine-EU relations based on the Association Agreement.”
The diplomat, who is Uraine’s top official in Brussels, added, “Ukraine, as an EU partner, has always been an important member of EU peacekeeping operations – in the Balkans and in the fight against piracy off the Horn of Africa.
“For years, Ukraine has been making its contributions to international security efforts and resources for peacekeeping operations, but now it needs support of its partners. Therefore, we rely on reciprocity and solidarity of the European Union.”
He explained the reasons for such a mission, saying,”On the one hand, Russia openly demonstrates unwillingness to settle the conflict. On the other hand, it is a pity, but the current mandate of the OSCE SMM is very limited.”
“Ukraine also fully supports the idea that the EU future operation could receive a mandate from the UN Security Council. Moreover, it would be a logical extension of the resolution approved by the Security Council supporting the Minsk agreements of 12 February, as the EU operation should be aimed at their practical implementation.
“That is why Russia should have reaffirmed in practice its commitments undertaken in Minsk on 12 February, contributed to the peaceful settlement of the conflict and, I lay special emphasis on this, should have taken all possible steps to this end.
“So this chance to persuade Russia to act in accordance with the international law must be used.
However, he cautioned,”But we must be realistic. Prospects for a positive decision to send peacekeepers to Ukraine are currently low.”
By Martin Banks