Kiev (AFP) – A plea from Ukraine for international peacekeepers to enforce a shattered ceasefire in the east ran into strident opposition Thursday from pro-Russian rebels and Moscow.
They argued the appeal, made late Wednesday by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, sought to “destroy” the UN-backed truce agreed under European mediation last week in the Belarus capital Minsk.
But four days after coming into effect, that truce was already in tatters.
This week, the rebels ignored it to storm a strategic town they had surrounded, Debaltseve, forcing thousands of government troops there to flee.
Kiev, the EU, US, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) tasked with monitoring the truce all said the rebel assault on Debaltseve was a violation of the ceasefire meant to apply to the whole conflict zone.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of cynically manipulating diplomacy while covertly deploying soldiers and military backing to the pro-Moscow separatists. The Kremlin denies the allegation.
Poroshenko late Wednesday won approval from Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council to invite UN-mandated peacekeepers into the country to monitor the frontline.
“We see the best format would be a police mission from the European Union,” he said. The decision has yet to be approved by Ukraine’s parliament.