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Russia will ask the United Nations Security Council to send peacekeepers to patrol the front line in eastern Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said this week, a development welcomed by Germany as a potential precursor to easing hostilities.
Fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in the region has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014. A 2015 peace deal brokered by Germany and France helped reduce the scale of the conflict, but regular skirmishes have continued.
Mr. Putin told reporters that peacekeepers could help ensure safety for international observers who are monitoring the ceasefire.
But the Russian president insisted the peacekeepers should be deployed only along the line separating the rebel-controlled territories and the area under government control where the clashes occur. Moscow’s foreign ministry will file a formal request with the UN Security Council, he said.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he found Mr. Putin’s announcement “surprising” but said he was “very glad…the Russian president said today he will continue to negotiate about demands that were rejected in the past by Russia.”
“More importantly, this offer of a UN mission in eastern Ukraine shows that Russia has effected a change in its policies that we should not gamble away,” he told reporters on the sideline of parliament in Berlin.
“It would be good if we take it as an opening to talk about new ways of detente.”
Russia’s United Nations ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told the council the UN peacekeepers would provide security for the observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “This would progress a solution of the problem in southeastern Ukraine,” Mr. Nebenzia said.
The Ukrainian president’s envoy for peace in the east, Iryna Gerashchenko, however, said earlier that Ukraine would agree to a deployment of the peacekeepers only in the separatist-held territories, not on the contact line.
The “Normandy Format” peace talks between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France have largely stalled of late, with a truce timed for the start of the new school year breaking down almost immediately after it was agreed upon at the end of August.
Shortly following this announcement, Mr. Putin warned the United States against sending defensive weapons to Ukraine, a possibility recently floated by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Mr. Putin stated: “The delivery of weapons to a conflict zone doesn’t help peacekeeping efforts, but only worsens the situation…Such a decision would not change the situation but the number of casualties could increase” (Reuters).
This article contains information from The Associated Press.