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Donbas peacemaking mission: risks and chances

Donbas peacemaking mission: risks and chances

This February ex-NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen presented to international political elite a plan of deployment 30-thousand United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Donbas. The peacemaking mission must in fact force the conflict parties to observe the Minsk Agreements which emphasize that ceasefire should be established before the mission deployment and after that local elections should be held. The plan highlights the fact that a thorough strategy for implementation of each Minsk Agreements step should be elaborated. However, currently this is just one possible scheme of Donbas peacemaking mission.

This is, for example, President Petro Poroshenko’s vision of Donbas mission: “Peacemakers must not escort services along the demarcation line. They cannot have limited authority. Peacemakers have the right to disarm illegal armed formations, peacemakers must ensure that there are no foreign troops on the occupied territory. One of their compulsory tasks should be presence alongside the uncontrolled part of the Russian-Ukrainian border to stop Russian troops, ammunition, fuel and military machinery infiltration onto Ukrainian territory”.

Peacekeeping theme has recently become popular in Ukrainian politicians rhetoric. A discussion about the format of the mission inspired by the fact that the Minsk Agreements are not popular with many Ukrainian politicians and MPs took place in Kyiv before Munich Conference.

Gen. Jaakko Oksanen, military observer in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in 1982-1983 (Lebanon) emphasizes that “peacemaking” and “forcing to observe peace” are different things. Voluntary agreement of the parties to observe peace under the UN Security Council supervision should be the cornerstone of peacemaking. Briefly, the process is divided into three stages: discussions (often long and substantial) followed by a resolution and defining the peacemaking mission mandate. The mission mandate must be both simple and complex enough to secure peace in the conflict zone. The expert outlines the fact that the UN can invite any organization which corresponds to the main rules stated in the mission mandate. For example, UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon), the UN peacemaking mission is located in the south of Lebanon at the Israeli border.

Jaakko Oksanen says that 20 thousand servicemen is the maximum number which can be deployed within one peacemaking operation. For example, 7 kilometres of the border in Lebanon were patrolled by 10 thousand servicemen. The cost of the mission was about 500 million euros.

The expert reminded that the information campaign about peacemakers should start as early as possible. The best time to inform the locals about the way the mission will work is two years before the deployment.

Hanna Shelest, political scientist and a member of the Foreign Policy Council Ukrainian Prism thinks that it is a mistake to draw a direct connecion between the number of peacekeepers and the size of the territory.

“Currently there are two biggest missions: the first one is in South Sudan where the territory is 640 square kilometres and the number of servicemen taking part in the mission is 17 thousand people, police and militaries, and the second one is Kongo, where the territory is 324 square kilometres and the number of servicemen is 18 thousand people. The situation which looks the most similar to ours is in Abyei Area (between South and North Sudan)”. There are 4 thousand peacekeepers on the territory of 11 square kilometres. The fact that all three localities are much less secure than the present-day Donbas, it is said in the news all the time. Besides, I think that it is not necessary to explain what problems they have with humanitarian situation, security policy, the quantity of armed hostilities and other issues. This is why it is sheer manipulation to count how many kilometres there were in Lebanon and how many kilometres there are in the Donbas, to speak about the territory only and to calculate people depending on it”, thinks the expert.

MP Hanna Hopko (Samopomich faction) thinks that a status of forces agreement should be elaborated by Ukrainian Parliament. All key moments should be discussed and analysed in Verkhovna Rada before Ukraine addresses the UN with the petition about the peacemaking operation deployment. She highlights the fact that there is no unified strategy or platform in the Parliament which would allow to discuss these questions. The MP thinks that as long as there is no consensus Ukraine is vulnerable.

“Besides, as there is no consensus among the majority of Ukrainian political parties, Russia will try to use the situation to soften sanctions and to try to improve its relationship with the West”, thinks Hopko.

MP Hryhoriy Nemyrya (Batkivschyna faction) thinks that peacemakers will help to avoid “freezing” the conflict, however he thinks that the number of peacemakers should be two times bigger than Jaakko Oksanen says. The MP insists that peacemaking forces should “be used in a more serious process within the work of an international civic administration” which will, depending on the tasks set, include 3-5 thousand people “as they should fulfill all the functions of a local civic administration”. MP Serhiy Taruta supports this idea (non-factional).

“It is crucial that they should have a partner, but for sure this partner must not be Zakharchenko (head of the “DPR” formation. They won’t work. Zakharchenko has no mandate. This is why we suggest to find a format which would include a temporary international administration”, thinks Taruta.

In Nemyrya’s opinion, the peacemakers mandate should include:

-providing security for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and temporary international administration;

-securing the peacemaking process and forcing to peace;

-separating the conflict parties; dissuation of the conflict parties; dissuation of the truce violators;

-controlling withdrawal, elimination or preservance of weapons in the areas designated for heavy weapons storage;

-protecting civil population and crucial infrastructure objects;

-ammunition and unexploded mines disposal, mine-clearance;

-facilitating captives’ and prisoners’ exchange.

Speaking about the possible members of the peacemaking mission, Nemyrya highlighted Finland and Sweden as they are the countries which can be the leaders of the process.

“We think that the countries which could provide troops (besides Sweden and Finland) should be considered as well, these can be Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, India, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand. If we speak about involving both NATO and the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization)... then Norway and Spain could represent NATO and Belarus and Kazakhstan could represent the CSTO. This depends on the compromise”, outlined the MP.

Nemyrya mentioned that if to speak about closing the borders with Russia, the fact that the other conflict party is interested in withdrawing “not only weapons but also a lot of other things”, a special timetable should be elaborated.

Nemyrya also reminded that while trying to solve the global issues of peacemaking, Ukraine should also observe the rights of IDPs and residents of occupied territories.

Serhiy Taruta suggests resuming paying pensions and other social welfare payments to the residents of uncontrolled territories within the framework of transitional justice. He claims that “it is possible to do this even today with the help the Red Cross”.

MP Andriy Teteruk (People’s Front faction) reminds, in his turn, that it is about 409 kilometres of uncontrolled border between Russia and Ukraine. This is why he thinks that twenty-thousand contigent would not be enough for restoring law and order in the Donbas. He suggests enforcing the peacemaking mission mechanism with the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the National Guard.

“As for the permission which will allow any country that has a similar governing system with Russia, meaning, similar military and resources governing systems, I’m sure that Ukrainian Parliament will not allow these countries take part in the mission”, added the MP.

The Deputy Minister for the Temporary Occupied Territories of Ukraine Heorhiy Tuka says in his turn that MPs must not be so categorical.

“This will not be a tragedy if NATO countries do not join in. As for Belarus possible presence... Well, tell me, if there are ten Belarus representatives among twenty thousand peacekeepers, will it influence anything? This is why I would recommend to avoid being so cetagorical, MPs should be more realistic”, said Tuka.

He paid attention to the questions which should be solved by MPs directly before peacemakers enter the Donbas territory. For example, they should decide how the elections should be held in the region whose territory is either entirely or partially controlled by peacemakers. Tuka also thinks that weapons withdrawal from the Donabs territory is the most controversial issue.

“What are the legal grounds which will allow Russia to withdraw weapons to the Russian Federation territory if it clams that “there are neither our troops nor our ammunition there”. If it is as they say, then this is ammunition which was found by miners, as Putin said, in Donbas mines, and then it must remain there as this is our ammunition”, said he.

Besides, Tuka suggests that the Minsk Agreements should be revised by parliamentarians.

“The idea of peacemakers deployment is new to the Minsk Agreements as there is no such point in the document. This means that the process of the Agreements revision has already started and this is a wise thing to do. Why don’t we seize the moment and start thinking about amendments to points which the Agreements contain and, let’s face the truth, which can undermine the Parliament at any moment”, said Tuka.

Jonathan Brunson, senior analyst for Ukraine and Eastern partnership countries is sure that a peacemaking mission should help the Ukrainian government realize the political part of the Minsk Agreements to create necessary conditions for holding elections.

“Instead of expressing their dissatisfaction with Minsk, leaders in Kyiv should initiate a serious dialogue. Besides, responsible politicians should support legitimacy of these Agreements to make them more understandible for Ukrainians. Western forces should prepare Kyiv to the difficulties which Minsk Agreements implementation can entail, in particular, with the ones the reconciliation strategy development can entail”, says Brunson.

He added that the conflict parties should start searching for a compromise to make lives of people who remain on the uncontrolled Donbas territory easier. In his opinion, improving Ukrainians’ living standards will facilitate the reintegration process.

“The only way to really reintegrate Donbas is to make life in Ukraine better”, underlined expert.

Director of Global Transformations Institute Oleksiy Semeniy agrees with Brunson’s opinion. He thinks that the Ukrainian government’s desire for a compromise is the key to success. “There is a saying that while a fat person will be just losing weight a thin one will die. We are a thin person compared to Russia. We suffer much more than Russia does. Russia can endure this position for the next 5-10 years. I have a question: can we politically, economically, socially endure this conflict on our territory for 5-10 years? In my opinion, we cannot. More than that, if you read the latest sociological research in Ukraine, you will find out that the majority of people support the idea if solving the conflict with the help of a wise compromise which contradicts greatly the policy of the leaders of our state. This is a big problem. Thus, I am sceptical as for the possibility of a real solution of the conflict in the Donbas until some political changes take place. Even if we imagine that the outer parties have agreed about something, one of the main keys to the problem solution are in Kyiv. There are two main keys: Moscow and Kyiv. Neither Kyiv, nor Moscow want to solve the conflict now and this is a real problem”, thinks Semenyi.

MP Ihor Popov (Oleh Lyashko, Radical Party faction) says that those political processes which are taking place now are quite risky. He thinks that the USA and Russia can agree about recognizing the “LDPR” as a talks participant in discussion about the peacemakers’ mandate. Besides, the question about the Crimea, just as some questions concerning the Minsk Agreements implementation can be postponed for indefinite time.

“Leaving some political agreements outside official documents can be tricky. We understand that Ukrainian society will not forgive any politician who agree to some new political liabilities. What should we be ready to accept in Munich or in any further talks? First of all, the first step will be just signing the ceasefire treaty. The Ukrainian party will be presented by the commander of the joint defense operation, according to our new law. Heads of Separate Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Regions will represent the other party. Here we are speaking about the ceasefire only. Then, the UN mandate may be used to conduct an operation to secure this ceasefire. Outside this they will try to persuade us that there is no Crimea and it is okay, and they will force Ukraine to obey some political points. The fact that every year the UN peacemaking mission mandate needs to be prolonged will be used as a lever of power against the Ukrainian government here”, thinks Popov.

A lot of opinions quoted here point out the fact that currently in Ukraine there is no unified opinion about Minsk Talks or about peacemaking mission either within the Parliament or between the authorities and people. Unfortunately this is a minus for a country which is craving for territorial and mental unity.

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