On the February 20, 2019, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York to make a statement about the occupation of the Donbass region by Russia. He warned there is a buildup of Russian personnel and equipment on its borders, which he believes to be an offensive strike group under direct orders from the Kremlin to prepare for an assault on Ukraine. He suggested to the general assembly that there needs to be a comprehensive real-time monitoring of the condition along the Russian border with Ukraine.
According to news site Ukrinform, Poroshenko said, “Russia has started the war against its neighbor, whom it calls brotherly, and it is showing no intention to stop. Almost daily, we lose our best sons and daughters. This is what my heart bleeds about every given day. This is what I would never be able to accept.”
February 20th marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of foreign military aggression against the country of Ukraine. Five years ago, more than 100 innocent lives—Ukrainians, Belarusians, Armenians, Jews, and many others—were lost in the name of Ukrainian independence, dignity, and freedom. The Maidan Revolution represented a fresh start—a new beginning for the people of Ukraine.
During this violent time Russia annexed Crimea through military force, then began supporting rebel groups in the Donbass region. Russia launched its covert military invasion, a clear violation of the principles of the U.N. charter to which Russia subscribes. In recent times, Russia has seized Crimea, turned Donbass into a battlefield, and has continued its aggression in the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea, and the Kerch Strait.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shot down in July 2014
Russia is directly responsible for the deaths of 13,000 people and for the 28,000 wounded in the Ukrainian War. Those numbers include the 298 passengers of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, shot down in July 2014 by the Russian military using a BUK missile system.
In his statement, the Ukrainian president advised the U.N. to take a more active and aggressive approach to putting Russia in its place, starting by depriving the belligerent country of its veto right, at least with issues related to Russian aggression against Ukraine. The president went on to say he is a firm believer in a U.N.-mandated multinational peacekeeping force with a clear objective to address Russian aggression and restore Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. This could be a decisive factor in restoring peace to Donbass.
President Poroshenko said, “As in any war, the first casualty of Moscow’s aggression was the truth. The occupation started with infamous ‘little green men’ and Kremlin’s outright and shameful denial of its military involvement in the takeover of the Ukrainian Crimea.”
U.N. peacekeeping force
Prior to deploying a peacekeeping force, the U.N. could send a technical assessment mission to Donbass to verify claims and document justifications for action. Russia would inevitably dispute such a U.N. presence in Donbass and would most likely say they are in violation of the Minsk Agreement. Russia occupies seven percent of Ukraine’s sovereign territory, which includes Donbass, Luhansk, and Crimea. How an external force can so boldly occupy seven percent of a sovereign state and still have a seat at the table of an organization devoted to international peace and security is beyond reason.
The Ukrainian president made a profound speech in New York and remains open to working with the U.N. and resolving the conflict. The president’s suggestion of a peacekeeping force is an opportunity many would favor, and one with the potential to resolve the conflict with minimal bloodshed. The U.N. should immediately insert a peacekeeping force along the borders of Ukraine and Russia. This would provide Ukrainian forces the opportunity to restore peace, law, and order in the region.