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Research: Experts support UN peacekeepers in the occupied territories, but do not believe it can happen

Kyiv, October 09, 2017.

The Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation presented the results of interviews with international experts on the introduction of the UN peacekeeping mission to the occupied Donbas. Twenty-one experts were interviewed; most of them are members of the Public Council at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. “Speaking about the overall result, experts clearly support the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk region. However, opinions differed regarding the realism of this scenario. A somewhat larger proportion of experts consider it unrealistic because they do not believe it is possible to negotiate with Russia,” said Iryna Bekeshkina, Director of the Foundation, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

According to the experts, it would be best for Ukraine if the peacekeeping mission consisted of servicemen from the US, the UK, Poland, and the Baltic States. “Unfortunately, the experts could not name a specific list of countries participating in the peacekeeping mission that would suit both Ukraine and Russia. The only country named was Germany, but it received a small number of votes,” noted Ms. Bekeshkina.

Experts believe that the most feasible consequences of the peacekeeping operation may be disarming of militants, cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of occupational troops and establishment of border control. “The purpose of inviting peacekeeping forces is to help us solve this problem peacefully, make the aggressor withdraw its troops and leave the Ukrainian territory in order to restore our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” said Oleksandr Motsyk, Ukraine’s representative in the taskforce on political issues of Minsk process. He also stressed that the probability of introducing peacekeepers is rather small, but Ukraine has to work on it.

“When Ukraine is reproached for its constant reaction and failure to set the agenda, I can say: it is because of its peacekeeping initiative that Ukraine sets the agenda and makes Russia to get away with it and react,” emphasized Serhiy Solodkyi, deputy director of the Centre “New Europe”. – It was two years ago that an independent group studied the latest documents on peacekeeping missions developed within the UN framework and prepared a report on the need to reform peacekeeping missions based on the analysis of the previous experience. The group concluded that UN peacekeeping operations proved to be effective and cost-effective in the presence of political commitment to peace. However, we do not see such a commitment from Russia. Unfortunately, I do not see grounds for a peacekeeping mission to appear and be effective so far.”

According to experts, the most likely political consequences of the peacekeeping mission introduction are the increased pressure on Ukraine in terms of implementing the political clauses of the Minsk agreements and lifting sanctions from Russia, at least in part, said Oleksiy Haran, professor of political science at the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”, research director at Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation. Maksym Palamarchuk, an expert at the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, stressed that in case of introducing the UN peacekeeping contingent, Ukraine will also have to compromise with the other side of the conflict. “We need to understand that being the victim of the aggression does not mean that we should not compromise. It is very difficult to admit, but we should realize that it is necessary to compromise at the least and leave our negotiators some room for maneuver,” he explained.

The interviewed experts advise us against accepting elections in the occupied territories of Donbas without a certain transition period and against the special status of these territories for the sake of the introduction of peacekeepers. At the same time, many experts believe that under certain conditions we can accept the amnesty of militants and the creation of mixed police forces in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions with the participation of Ukraine, local representatives, and UN representatives.

Iryna Bekeshkina reminded that according to a nationwide poll conducted by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation in June 2017, 60% of the population supports the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent.  Only in the south of Ukraine, the number of people against peacekeepers in Donbas is almost the same as the number of supporters: 38% of respondents oppose it, and 36%  support. At the same time, it is also the region with the largest number of abstainees – 25%.

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