World

Ukraine asks U.N. to move ahead with peacekeeper plan for restive region despite Russia outcry

AFP-JIJI

Ukraine urged U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday to draw up options for a peacekeeping mission to the war-torn Donbass region, despite opposition from Russia.

President Petro Poroshenko told the General Assembly that deploying a U.N.-mandated peace force could be a “decisive factor” in bringing an end to the five-year war.

Ukraine has pushed the idea of sending blue helmets to the east since 2015, but Russia has rejected the idea, although President Vladimir Putin has talked about possibly sending international observers.

In his address to a special assembly session, Poroshenko pressed for concrete steps to prepare such a mission that he insisted would be deployed across the Donbass region.

He said Guterres should send a fact-finding mission to the region to outline “elaborate respective options” that could be discussed, stressing that Ukraine was “ready for constructive discussion of this initiative.”

The conflict pitting Russian separatists against Ukrainian government forces is estimated to have claimed more than 10,000 lives — one-third of them civilian — since it broke out five years ago.

At least 1.5 million have been driven from their homes in what Poroshenko described as a “cruel, ugly, unnecessary war.”

Taking a swipe at the United Nations, the president said that providing humanitarian aid and monitoring human rights was “not enough,” and lamented that “not too much progress has been made” despite the U.N. chief’s pledge to make Ukraine a priority in 2018.

Russia has long maintained that separatists in eastern Ukraine oppose Kiev without support from Moscow.

Poroshenko, who is running for re-election, also suggested that it was “time to put Russia in its place” by depriving it of its veto power in the Security Council when it comes to issues dealing with Ukraine.

He called for the release of Ukrainian detainees including 24 sailors during a clash at sea off the coast of Crimea in November last year.

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