Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Did the president convince the UN?

Poroshenko called for a peacekeeping mission on the entire territory of the occupied Donbas
26 September, 2017 - 11:36
Photo by Mykhailo PALINCHAK

During a working visit to the US, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko addressed the general debate of the 72nd UN General Assembly. In particular, the head of state called on the organization to send as soon as possible a peacekeeping force to eastern Ukraine, saying that it was “the only viable solution to de-escalate, to protect the people of Ukraine, and to bring us closer to a political solution.” He also emphasized that the mandate of peacekeepers should cover the entire occupied territory. Besides, the president spoke about the formation of an international group to coordinate joint actions to de-occupy Crimea, about the necessity to reform the UN for a more effective response to new challenges, condemned North Korea’s nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, etc.

The Day requested some Ukrainian and US experts to comment on the Ukrainian president’s speech at the UN General Assembly.


Volodymyr VASYLENKO, Doctor of Law, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine:

“I am of a positive opinion about President Petro Poroshenko’s speech at the UN General Assembly. This year, all the accents and proposals aimed at strengthening the international law and order and protecting the national interests of Ukraine were spelled out correctly.

“First of all, the president said clearly at the very beginning that Ukraine favors reforming the UN, including the Security Council, in order to make this main instrument of maintaining peace and security more effective. Ukraine has some experience in this, and I think it could make its contribution.

“Besides, Poroshenko emphasized the necessity of strictly adhering to the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and free choice. He pointed out that what provoked Russian armed aggression in 2014 was Ukraine’s making a free choice.

“The president spoke in detail about Russian aggressions in Crimea and the Donbas, stressing that the Kremlin has opted for the tactic of increasing human sufferings, systematically violates the Minsk Agreements, and is this trying to wage a war of attrition. He even cited instances of numerous human rights infringements by Russian invaders in Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Poroshenko called for establishing a ‘group of Ukrainian Crimea’s friends.’ But I would say it is necessary to form a group of the friends of not only Crimea, but also of Ukraine as a whole, a state that suffered Russian aggression.

“Poroshenko was right to qualify Putin’s so-called peacekeeping proposal as a hybrid one, as an attempt to legalize his puppets and freeze the conflict forever. But the president did not reject the necessity of a UN peacekeeping mission which he had proposed as far back as 2015. He emphasized that Ukraine favors a full-fledged UN peacekeeping operation in this country. This means that the mission should be stationed not along the line of disengagement but on the whole occupied territory and control the entire line of the Russian-Ukrainian border in order to discontinue the supply of manpower, arms and equipment to the Russian occupational troops. Therefore, Ukraine believes that the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission should contribute to a full de-occupation of the areas in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts now under control of the aggressor’s armed forces.

“As for the president’s other initiatives, I would note his call to the UN Security Council to condemn North Korea’s attempts of nuclear blackmail and to conduct a thorough investigation into the nuclear programs of that country in order to trace any likely foreign assistance to Pyongyang. It is a very timely proposal because there have been attempts to accuse Ukraine of rendering some kind of assistance to North Korea. The president in fact refuted these allegations, suggesting that an inquiry be made, and thus showed that Ukraine has nothing to fear because it has never helped North Korea carry out rocket and missile programs.

“It is positive that the head of state called on the General Assembly to make a historic decision to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide. It is a signal addressed not so much to the General Assembly as to Ukrainian diplomacy and the entire system of Ukraine’s legislative and executive bodies which must work in a coordinated, systemic, and skilled manner to inform the international community about the crime of genocide. In particular, UN members should be informed about the ruling of the Appeal Court of Kyiv dated January 13, 2010, which confirmed that the crime of the Holodomor-genocide meets all the criteria of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Unfortunately, this has not yet been done, and it must be done by circulating the Ukrainian court’s ruling as a UN document. This step would be a very effective way to inform UN members and the general international public.

“Of course, there are some ill-considered points in the president’s speech. For example, he called on the General Assembly to pass another UN resolution to condemn human rights abuse in Crimea. It is right. But, at the same time, he called for strengthening the international regime of Crimea’s de-occupation. As far as I know, there is no international regime like this so far. Therefore, there is nothing to strengthen. He should have urged the world community and the UN to increase sanctions against Russia as the aggressor state in order to force it to meet its international commitments and restore the international law and order.

“Besides, the speech also mentions the UN International Court as an instrument of putting the blame for failure to observe international law. It is a right attitude, but the suit Ukraine filed to the International Court is not about Russia’s responsibility for the aggression against Ukraine. If the Court hands down a positive ruling, it will only confirm Russia’s responsibility for failure to observe the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.”


Orest DEYCHAKIWSKY, former longtime policy advisor at the US Helsinki Commission:

“I thought the UNGA speech was strong, comprehensive, well argued and effective in laying out Ukraine’s positions regarding Russia’s wholesale violations of international agreements. Especially effective was his articulation of the human costs of Russia’s war, addressing human rights violations in both the occupied territories of the Donbas and Crimea, including specific cases, thus underscoring the human factor, and also his highlighting the plight of Crimean Tatars. His approach to the UN peacekeeping mission was reasonable, and he made a compelling case as to what was acceptable to Ukraine I think his message to UNGA was the right one and he made the case in a clear and compelling manner. Also, I was glad that he called for the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide.”


Peter ZALMAYEV, Director of Eurasia Democracy Initiative:

“For the 4th time since Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, President Poroshenko delivered a fiery appeal to the UN General Assembly to uphold its charter and condemn Russia’s violation of its neighbor’s sovereignty. This time, though, he brought a concrete proposal: for international peacekeepers to be sent to the eastern border of Ukraine with Russia. Since any decision regarding peacekeeping operations falls under the auspices of the Security Council, where Russia holds veto power as one of permanent five members, it is unlikely that the current draft of Ukraine’s resolution will pass. It will not pass simply because Russia does not recognize itself as the aggressor, believing the war in the Donbas to be Ukraine’s ‘civil conflict’ and insisting on peacekeepers to be stationed INSIDE the war-torn region, many kilometers away from its border. Nonetheless, Ukraine’s president and diplomats are pushing hard for all other Sec Council members to support the resolution, and, should it get all the votes minus Russia, it will be a strong signal to Moscow that international sympathy remains on Ukraine’s side.”

By Natalia PUSHKARUK, Mykola SIRUK, The Day