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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Day 1297: September 6, 2017

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Germany 'Very Pleased' with Putin's Proposal for Donbass Peacekeepers; US Cautiously Welcomes; Some Skepticism

UN Security Council. Photo by Bebeto Matthews/AP 

As we reported, Russia submitted a proposal to the UN Security Council on September 5 -- not yet made public -- for peacekeepers to be positioned only at the line of contact and only to protect OSCE observers.

Germany welcomed the proposal for UN peacekeepers to be deployed to eastern Ukraine, Reuters reported. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Putin's announcement was "surprising" but said he was "very pleased to see this first signal" that Putin "want to further discuss a demand which Russia has directed in the past."

German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said any deployment would have to cover the whole area of conflict, not just the contact line as indicated by Putin, but said, "The presidents suggestion is a step". Many others would have to be added before the complete lifting of sanctions could be discussed, she added.

Boris Gryzlov, Russia's representative in the Trilateral Contact Group, said that deploying the peacekeepers could only be realistic after Ukraine introduced amendments to the "Law on Special Status for the Donbass" using the "Steinmeier formula," so named for Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier which means that rather than fulfilling the various points of the Minsk agreement consecutively, they would be fulfilled in parallel.

Irina Herashchinko, Ukraine's representative in the Trilateral Contact Group said Putin was "distorting the idea of peacekeepering".

The US cautiously welcome Putin's proposal, saying a UN peacekeeping mission is "worth exploring," the Washington Post reported.

But spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “Any such force should have a broad mandate for peace and security throughout the occupied territory in Ukraine.

Following Ukraine, the US is concerned that deploying the peacekeepers along the line of contact would "actually solidify the line’s status as the new de facto border between Ukrainian-controlled territory and separatist-controlled territory in the country’s east," the Washington Post reported.

Putin's timing with this proposal appears to be related to his warning to the US not to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, RFE/RL reported.

That means his unexpected raising of a peacekeeping proposal is designed to make Russia -- actually the aggressor in Ukraine -- as party willing to make peace, while Ukraine is put in an awkward position.

Oleksiy Melnyk, a military expert at Kyiv's Razumkov Center called out the gambit in an interview with RFE/RL:

“President Poroshenko has been speaking about peacekeepers for two years, and now Ukraine has an opportunity to get them,” Melnyk tells RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, suggesting Russia’s motivations are dubious. “Russia is guided by the logic of war and the logic of achieving victory and is not interested in resolving the conflict."

More than 10,000 people, including both soldiers and civilians have been killed in the war in Ukraine since 2014.

Responding to Putin's proposal, Commentary's Sohrab Ahmari said bluntly, "Russia doesn't seek peace."

It should be a familiar routine by now: Vladimir Putin offers an apparent diplomatic breakthrough in eastern Ukraine. Western negotiators get overexcited; the peace-shuttling commences; an agreement is signed. But the Russian strongman only uses the process to consolidate his gains on the ground, without making good on his commitments. Then he pounces for more territory when conditions are advantageous.

The Kremlin’s call for deploying a United Nations peacekeeping force to eastern Ukraine is an example of this familiar ruse, and the West should avoid falling for it.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

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