Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Belarus Proposes Donbas “Peacekeeping Force”

Belarus Proposes Donbas “Peacekeeping Force”

Live in peace—prepare for war.[1]

-Russian proverb.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday proposed sending troops to serve as peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region.[2]  Lukashenko made his proposal in an interview with online television channel Euronews, excerpts of which were published on Thursday 2 October.  He is hosting the Trilateral Contract Group[3] negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, which started in September.

Aleksandr Zakharchenko, Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic[4] declared in an interview with the Russian language website LOOK (ВЗГЛЯД) that he “is not in principle against the introduction of Belarus troops into the Donbas as peacekeepers.”[5]  Zakharchenko wants the Belarus peacekeepers to occupy a buffer zone to be established on the Ukrainian side of the border claimed by the DPR: “It depends whether they will be positioned outside Donetsk.  If so, we’d be pleased to see them come.  We believe that a large part of our territory is now illegally occupied” [by Ukrainian forces].[6]

Zakharchenko’s point was reiterated by Miroslav Rudenko, Deputy Chairman of the DPR’s Supreme Council, reiterated this during a transcribed radio interview with Moscow Speaks (Говорит Москва): “It would be great to see the Belarus military contingent positioned to disengage forces along Ukraine’s border with the DPR and the LPR [Luhansk People’s Republic], and to separate the territories of the two republics from Ukrainian territory.”[7]

However, as to the further meetings of meeting of the Trilateral Contract Group, Zakharchenko said there are “too many differences for the peace process to continue now,” especially “in light of the battle for Donetsk’s airport.”[8]  He elaborated in another interview, “The Ukrainian side absolutely does not control the situation with its armed forces.  It proclaims one thing at the Minsk meetings, but the result is completely different.”[9]

Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebiynis peremptorily rejected Lukashenko’s proposal: “The Russian Federation must withdraw its troops form Ukraine’s territory.  Peacekeeping troops are not needed.  We are capable of restoring order in our own land if the foreign troops leave.”[10]

By most accounts, only symbolic gains have come so far from the Trilateral Contract Group process, most of which have accrued to Lukashenko.  One Russian outlet begrudgingly declared him the only “winner” so far, having convinced Ukraine to drop all trade restrictions before the Minsk talks ever commenced.  The nationalist Russian news outlet ИА REX[11] writes, “As the crisis in Ukraine deepens, so the role of intermediaries in the dialogue between the forces involved in the conflict will only increase.”[12]

[1] It reads in the original Russian: “Живи в мире – готовься к войне.”  The proverb was quoted by Donetsk People’s Republic Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko, who continued, “Now we have a truce, but we are preparing for war.  Not today, but tomorrow, the whole country will be attacked, so we need to be ready.” See: «Ожидается нападение на все государство». ВЗГЛЯД [online Russian language edition, 3 October 2014]. Last accessed 3 October 2014.

[2] “Белоруссия введет войска на краину. [Russian language online edition, 3 October 2014]. “ Last accessed 3 October 2014.

[3] The Trilateral Contract Group is comprised of Ukraine, represented by former president and the current president’s presidential special envoy, Leonid Kuchmar; the Donetsk People’s Republic, represented by Prime Minister Alexsandr Zakharchenko and First Deputy Andrey Purgin; and the Luhansk People’s Republic, represented by its head, Igor Plotnitsky and Supreme Council chairman Alexey Karyakin.  Also participating are the Russian Federation, represented by its ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov; and Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

[4] The Donetsk People’s Republic is a self-proclaimed state in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.  It is commonly referred to in Russian and Ukrainian media outlets by the acronym “DNR”, from the Russian and Ukrainian transliterations.  Russian: Донецкая народная республика. Russian transl.: Donétskaya naródnaya respúblika. Ukrainian: Донецька народна республіка. Ukrainian transl.: Donets’ka narodna respublika.

[5] “Захарченко: Все зависит от того, где встанут белорусские войска. ВЗГЛЯД [online Russian language edition, 2 October 2014]. Last accessed 3 October 2014. The quoted text reads in the original Russian: “он в принципе не против ввода белорусских войск в Донбасс в качестве миротворцев”

[6] Ibid.

[7] “В ДНР приветствуют идею Лукашенко направить миротворцев на Украину.” Говорит Москва  [online Russian language edition, 3 October 2014]. Last accessed 3 October 2014.

[8] Ibid.

[9]  The full quote reads in the original Russian: “Это плохо только для Украины, потому что украинская сторона совершенно не контролирует ситуацию в своих вооруженных силах. Украинская сторона на минских встречах декларирует одно, а в итоге выходит совершенно другое.”

[10] “Киев отказался от предложения Лукашенко ввести миротворцев в Донбасс.” ВЗГЛЯД [online Russian language edition, 3 October 2014]. Last accessed 3 October 2014.

[11] The slogan of which is “A Russian news agency, not a foreign agent” [ИА REX — российское информационное агентство, не иностранный агент].

[12] “ЛУКАШЕНКО – ПРОПАГАНДИСТ УКРАИНСКОГО ФАШИЗМА, МАССОВЫХ УБИЙСТВ НА ДОНБАССЕ И РУСОФОБИИ / АЛЕКСАНДР ЖИЛИН.”  ИА REX [online Russian language version, 3 October 2014]. Last accessed 3 October 2014.