Ukraine urges peacekeeping mission


Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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Ukraine’s president has signed a decree opening the way to a formal request for international peacekeepers to be stationed in eastern regions where government forces are battling Russian-backed separatists.

President Petro Poroshenko’s office said the appeal for a contingent of peacekeepers will be addressed to the United Nations and the European Union. His office gave no specific details on the mission’s composition or any timetable for it but Russia is strongly against the idea.

Fighting has waned substantially in eastern Ukraine in recent days as a ceasefire deal forged last month increasingly takes effect, but both sides have complained of sporadic violations.

Military spokesman Colonel Andriy Lysenko said that one serviceman was killed today and another four were wounded over the previous day. He did not specify the circumstances of those casualties.

The UN human rights office has raised its toll of the fighting, saying more than 6,000 people have died since the conflict began in April.

Under the terms of the ceasefire accord, the warring sides must pull back their heavy weaponry by distances of between 50 kilometres (30 miles) and 140 kilometres (90 miles) from the front line. That drawback started last week, although progress has been uncertain.

Separatist military spokesman Eduard Basurin said that rebels have pulled back all their weaponry as stipulated in the peace agreement. That claim has yet to be confirmed by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is overseeing the withdrawal process.

Col Lysenko accused separatists of making a show of drawing back weapons only to return them to their original frontline positions at night. He said Ukrainian troops would continue their own withdrawals only if the situation did not worsen.

“But it is too early to talk about this as every day we see violations of the ceasefire, including with the use of heavy weapons that the militants ought to have withdrawn,” he said.

US secretary of state John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart in Geneva in what appeared to be less than amicable talks amid the continuing tensions over Ukraine. Neither man smiled or spoke substantively as they shook hands at the start of the talks, which took place less than a week after Mr Kerry told Congress that Russian officials have lied “to my face” about Moscow’s role in Ukraine.

That comment drew a rebuke from the Russian foreign ministry. US officials have pointed out that Mr Kerry did not specifically accuse Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov of lying to him.

While Russia denies its troops are fighting in Ukraine, the UN has cited “credible reports (that) indicate a continuing flow of heavy weaponry and foreign fighters” from Russia.

Ukraine has been steadily intensifying its war-readiness since the conflict in the east broke and has embarked on numerous waves of partial military mobilisations.

On Monday, Mr Poroshenko presented legislation to parliament to boost the size of the country’s armed forces to 250,000.

Interfax-Ukraine news agency cited prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk as saying last week that boosting the size of the army to that amount would require enlisting an additional 68,000 troops.

Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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