Peacekeepers? What peacekeepers?
Speaking at a press conference at the APEC summit in Vietnam last week, Vladimir Putin said he was unaware of any specific proposals to send peacekeepers to the Donbas.
The Kremlin leader said he had "not heard anything about it," knows "nothing about it," and that "it doesn't exist."
Now, back in September, of course, it was Putin himself who proposed sending a very limited contingent of peacekeepers to the Donbas.
But he proposed deploying them only along the line of contact and not throughout the occupied territories and on the Russian-Ukrainian border, as Kyiv had long been demanding.
It was a clever ploy that created the impression that Russia was giving in to a key Ukrainian demand -- when, in fact, it was doing nothing of the sort.
But since then, the idea of sending peacekeepers to Ukraine has taken on a life of its own.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin says a Security Council resolution on peacekeepers is pretty much ready.
And The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, plans to propose a contingent of 20,000 peacekeepers when he meets with Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov in Belgrade today.
If peacekeepers are ever sent to Ukraine, the significance of where they are deployed is important -- and not just because this would determine the mission's effectiveness.
Where a peacekeeping mission is deployed will send a powerful signal about how the international community views the war in eastern Ukraine.
If it's deployed along the line of contact, it would perpetuate Moscow's preferred myth that the war in Ukraine is an internal affair and Russia is simply a mediator.
But if they are deployed throughout the occupied areas and on the Russian-Ukrainian border, it would recognize the conflict in the Donbas for what it is: a Russian war of aggression.
So stay tuned.
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