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Putin backs sending force to protect Ukraine monitors
by Staff Writers
Xiamen, China (AFP) Sept 5, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday supported deploying an international force to eastern Ukraine to help protect monitors observing the conflict, but Kiev poured cold water on the plan.

"I consider the presence of peacekeepers -- one could call them not peacekeepers, but people who ensure the safety of the OSCE mission -- to be completely appropriate," Putin told a press conference following a BRICS summit in China.

He insisted that any force should only "assure the security" of the unarmed mission from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

It should be restricted to operating on the "demarcation line" between Ukranian troops and Russian-backed rebels, and only deployed once heavy weaponry has been withdrawn, Putin said.

The Kremlin chief ordered his foreign ministry to prepare and table a UN Security Council resolution on deploying the force.

Some 600 international OSCE observers are on the ground in eastern Ukraine, but their presence has failed to stop fighting in a conflict that has killed 10,000 people since 2014.

Ukraine -- which has previously called for UN peacekeepers to be sent in -- accuses Russia of being behind the insurgency that has gripped swathes of its former industrial heartland.

Despite overwhelming evidence of its involvement, Moscow continues to deny the allegations by Ukraine and the West.

Sceptical officials in Kiev immediately rebuffed Putin's proposal, saying the Kremlin was trying to lock in Russian gains.

"This is a pretty predictable move from Putin -- a step towards freezing the conflict," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official said that Moscow only wanted to see forces deployed along the frontline, but was rejecting bolstering controls over its porous border with the rebel-held territories.

Ukraine's deputy parliament speaker Iryna Gerashchenko -- who is involved in negotiations over the conflict -- added that Putin was trying to turn Kiev's plea for an outside force "on its head".

"Peacekeepers must be deployed on all of the territory occupied by Russia," she said on Facebook.

A European-brokered peace plan that was put forward in 2015 has hit a wall, with Moscow and Kiev accusing each other of failing to fulfil their obligations.

The warring sides on the ground remain locked in a stalemate that sees regular exchanges of deadly artillery fire.

US planning more regular South China Sea patrols: report
Washington (AFP) Sept 2, 2017
The Pentagon is planning to conduct more regular patrols in the South China Sea - as many as two to three a month - to assert freedom of navigation in disputed waters claimed by China, the Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper said the aim is to create a more consistent posture to counter China's maritime claims, rather than a more ad hoc approach favored during Barack Obama's admini ... read more

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