KYIV, Jan 16 – Russia on Wednesday rejected a plan to send massive U.N. peacekeeping force to occupied territories in Ukraine, a sign that fighting will probably continue in the region for months.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the region, known as Donbass, “will not surrender” to accept the peacekeepers. He urged Kyiv to directly engage in talks with rebels that Western powers and Ukraine believe are controlled by Moscow.
“They want to pretend that this is the only way to solve the Ukrainian crisis and make Donbass surrender,” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow. “It's unrealistic, it's totally unrealistic.”
The idea to send the 30,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force to the occupied areas was originally suggested by Kurt Volcker, U.S. special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, as the first step in de-militarizing the region.
Western countries support sending the peacekeeping force to Donbass in order to stop the fighting and start the process of re-integrating the occupied areas back into Ukraine.
Ukraine has argued the massive peacekeeping force is needed to seal the border between Donbass and Russia, which is used by Moscow to resupply the rebels with weapons and personnel, according to SBU, the Ukrainian security service.
Russia, instead, said it would accept a very small U.N. force that would simply be tasked with providing security to international observers in the area, leaving the borders to Russia open.
Lavrov’s comments indicate that little progress will probably be made within the next several months on de-escalating, further fueling the conflict.
A Ukrainian personnel carrier on Wednesday was attacked and hit by an anti-tank guided missile near the village of Troyitske, wounding 10 soldiers, the Ukrainian military command reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2018 suggested armed U.N. peacekeepers be deployed to eastern Ukraine to help protect ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists killed more than 10,000 people since 2014. (tl/ez)