In a definite sign that his country cannot defend itself against Russia anymore, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked Wednesday for United Nations peacekeepers to be deployed to the embattled east of his country after Ukrainian forces suffered heavy bombardment and casualties in the ongoing fight with Russia over a disputed region.
But Russia has stepped up to say calling for international peacekeepers violates the peace agreement reached together last week, and the presence of UN forces might escalate tensions between the two countries. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Thursday his country and Ukraine had agreed after some negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, to a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the frontlines, and any call for UN intervention clearly violated the internationally-brokered peace deal.
“If some other schemes are proposed, it raises the question of whether the Minsk agreements are going to be adhered to or not,” Churkin told the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.
President Poroshenko had been forced to call for interntional help hours after his army suffered a significant defeat at Debaltseve, with thousands of Ukrainian soldiers beating a hasty retreat under heavy artillery fire pro-Russian rebels. According to a Ukrainian military source, over 90% of is forces have been withdrawn from the fiercely contested town.
Another problem that Poroshenko faces is that his proposal for UN soldiers depends only on neutral forces that are acceptable to both sides. Poroshenko staked his young presidency to defend Ukraine even in the face of grinding economic difficulties, and he is already facing lesser supports from Kiev as his country continues to suffer humiliating defeat.
And to drive home the point that Ukraine suffered heavy casualties from rebel fighters in the ongoing crisis, rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said Thursday “Let Kiev take their dead. We invited the parents and mothers of the Ukrainian troops there to take their soldiers. But they were alive then.”
One of Poroshenko’s coalition allies in parliament called for criminal charges to be lodged against top military leaders. “There were enough forces and equipment. The problem is coordination and command,” Semen Semenchenko, a lawmaker who is also a volunteer militia commander said. “The head of the General Staff should be brought to liability. Period.”