Russian-led military bloc could send peacekeepers to Ukraine – top general
With fears of an all-out military conflict in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass region, troops from a major Moscow-led military faction could be sent on a mission to stabilize the tense situation if Kiev and the international community agree on the plan, the bloc’s secretary general has said.
Speaking as part of an exclusive interview to Reuters, published on Saturday, Stanislav Zas weighed in on which measures the Collective Security Treaty Organization could take if given the go-ahead.
“We have colossal potential in our hands. We all understand that we need to be very careful with this sharp instrument,” he said.
According to the lieutenant-general, the CSTO has the capacity for a large-scale deployment. “Believe me, we can send as many as needed.”
“If we need 3,000, we'll send them. If we need 17,000 we'll send them. If we need more there'll be more. As many as are needed,” he continued.
However, he added the caveat that such a move would need to be given the greenlight from multiple sides, including Kiev, which is not a member of the bloc.
“Hypothetically you can imagine it … if there were goodwill from Ukraine - it is after all their territory - if there was a U.N. Security Council mandate, and if it was needed and such a decision was supported by all our governments,” he explained.
The interview, which was conducted before the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics began mass evacuations of civilians to Russia, comes amid clashes erupting in the Donbass in the past few days. Ukrainian soldiers and those loyal to the two self-declared separatist regions have accused one another of aggression along contact lines, with claims of heavy shelling coming from both sides.
In January, units from the multinational CSTO were sent to Kazakhstan after street protests decrying the government’s removal of price controls on liquified petroleum gas, a fuel that many use to power their cars, turned violent.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that Moscow could have ulterior motives with the troop deployment, stating “I think one lesson in recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it’s sometimes very difficult to get them to leave.” However, the forces left just days after their arrival having completed their mission.