Wednesday

29th Jan 2020

Kiev's call for EU mission falling on deaf ears

  • 'The EU is, in principle, refusing to talk about this proposal', one contact said (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

Kiev has, again, urged the EU to send peacekeepers to east Ukraine. But there is little appetite in Brussels for the move, diplomats say.

President Petro Poroshenko made the appeal in a letter to EU Council chief Donald Tusk dated 12 October and seen by EUobserver.

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He described the current lull in heavy fighting as “very fragile”.

“Russian regular troops and mercenaries as well as heavy weapons and military equipment keep flooding the region … Thousands of Russia-armed militants continue to be under arms”.

He said an “EU executive mission” to the area “could significantly contribute to further de-escalation”, as well as help organise local elections in Russia-occupied territories, and help seal the border.

“A visible EU presence on the ground will be a strong symbol of the EU’s leading role in maintaining peace and security in Europe”, he added.

Kiev has been calling for an EU military mission since early this year.

But diplomatic sources say Tusk is unlikely to put the idea on the agenda of the next EU summit, on 17 December, because there’s little support from member states.

“The EU is, in principle, refusing to talk about this proposal”, one contact said.

“People say it’s better to concentrate on support for the OSCE”, he added, referring to an existing monitoring mission by the Vienna-based watchdog.

“But the real reason why is Russia: In formal terms, we don’t need Russia’s permission [to deploy an EU mission in east Ukraine]. But nobody wants to wake the bear from its recent slumber. Where Russia’s concerned, most member states prefer to be cautious”.

Poroshenko's idea aside, the EU summit in December will discuss renewal of Russia economic sanctions.

The measures are to expire at the end of January unless they are renewed by consensus.

Poroshenko said they “remain one of few efficient instruments driving Moscow towards fulfilling its [ceasefire] commitments”.

He told Tusk “it is critically important to continue exerting pressure on Russia through maintaining [the] existing sanctions regime” and to “make it clear that any new violation will result in widening and strengthening [of] restrictive measures”.

For its part, the OSCE said in its last report on 31 October there were “fewer explosions in [the] Donetsk region [in east Ukraine] as compared with previous days”, while the situation “in [the] Luhansk region remained relatively calm”.

It said monitors “heard two explosions and two bursts of small arms during the day” in the Donetsk area.

One man was injured when he stepped on a landmine.

They observed hundreds of civilians snaking through checkpoints between Kiev and Moscow-controlled territories, with some Luhansk residents complaining they had no running water.

Russia-controlled forces in Donetsk moved two howitzers from a depot where they were supposed to stay under ceasefire terms.

They also stopped OSCE personnel from following fresh tank tracks to their source.

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