Since 2014, there have been over 13,000 deaths in the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine as a result of Russian aggression. These casualties include over 3,000 civilian deaths, with tens of thousands of people injured, and about 1.5 million becoming internally displaced people. In spite of Russia’s involvement in the conflict, the Russian government continues to deny any involvement in the conflict in Donbas. Furthermore, Russia continues to act as a mediator in the peace process, which has hindered progress for successful negotiations in restoring peace to Eastern Ukraine.
Sergiy Kyslytsya, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, made a statement about Russia’s role in the conflict during the UN General Assembly debate on agenda item “Situation in the temporary occupied territories of Ukraine” on Tuesday, February 23.
"It is crucial to constantly remind Moscow of its obligations as a party to the conflict. Until Russia admits its role in the conflict, the prospects of peaceful resolution will remain elusive," he said.
Russia has been criticized for acting as a mediator because of their role as an active participant in the conflict. Kyslytsya described the statements made by Russian officials about Moscow's alleged "mediation" role in the Donbas peace process as “outrageous.”
"Russia has not been and cannot, in principle, be a mediator in the conflict it has started and continues to take part in since the first day of aggression," he said. Kyslytsya also expressed the need to deny Russia its veto power at UN Security Council meetings, because Russia is not even mentioned in Article 23 of the UN Charter on the composition of the Council.
He also reiterated the need to introduce a UN peacekeeping mission in Ukraine. "Sovereign control of Ukraine over its state border should be renewed and UN Peacekeepers, as one of the options, could play an important role in its monitoring," he said.
There have been talks of deploying UN peacekeeping forces to Eastern Ukraine in the past. However, in order for a peacekeeping mission to be established, Russia and Ukraine must agree on certain compromises and work towards fulfilling the obligations outlined by the Minsk Agreements.
Any chance of starting a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas or reaching the compromises necessary to begin such an operation are hindered by continued ceasefire violations from Russian-backed separatist forces. Attempts to implement a full ceasefire in Donbas have been made in the past, with the most recent one occurring on July 27, 2020, when participants in the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE) agreed on a full and comprehensive ceasefire along the contact line. However, since the first day of this latest truce, Russian hybrid military forces have continued to initiate attacks along the contact line.
There has been much debate on the long-term effectiveness of deploying UN peacekeeping forces to Donbas. Nevertheless, Kyslytsya remains confident that a peacekeeping mission could not only restore Ukraine's territorial integrity, but also strengthen the authority of international law, and return peace and stability to the European continent.