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Putin wants force sent to 'ensure safety' of Ukraine monitors
by Staff Writers
Xiamen, China (AFP) Sept 5, 2017

Moldovan president blocks sending troops to US drills in Ukraine
Chisinau (AFP) Sept 5, 2017 - The president of Moldova on Tuesday said he had cancelled the participation of a small group of Moldovan soldiers in an upcoming US Army Europe exercise, in a symbolic move underscoring the political split in the ex-Soviet state.

Kremlin-friendly President Igor Dodon, who was elected in November and wants to steer from warmer EU ties towards better relations with Moscow, posted his decision on his Facebook page.

Dodon rejected a request by the defence ministry to send 57 Moldovan soldiers to the drills in western Ukraine from September 8-23.

"We do not accept involvement by Moldovan servicemen in military exercises beyond the national borders," Dodon wrote.

Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova has endured a split between those favouring ties with ex-Soviet master Moscow and pro-European politicians.

While figurehead leader Dodon supports a strategic partnership with Russia, Moldova's government is pro-European.

Dodon earlier this year said he is against NATO opening a planned liaison office in the capital Chisinau.

The Moldovan parliament voted in July to demand that Moscow pulls out soldiers stationed in Moldova's breakaway territory of Transdniestr.

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 his 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"demarcation line" between Ukranian troops and Russian-backed rebels, and only deployed once heavy weaponry has been withdrawn, Putin said.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 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.

- Kiev sceptical -

Sceptical officials in Kiev immediately rejected the proposal with the foreign ministry saying that it was designed "to distort the very ideas and goals of a peacekeeping mission."

"Ukraine, as a consistent supporter of the initiative for a UN peacekeeping force in Donbass, is ready to work on this issue," a statement said.

But Kiev insisted it would have to give the green light to the force and that any deployment needed to be accompanied by a withdrawal of "all occupying troops" and help re-establish control of the rebel-held border with Russia.

"There can be no discussion of any military or other personnel from the side of the aggressor on Ukrainian territory in the guise of peacekeepers," the statement said.

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.

Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel cautiously welcomed the announcement, saying that Putin had "up until now" refused to countenance a UN mission "to assure a ceasefire is put in place."

"If this really constitutes an opportunity then we have to seize it," he told lawmakers in Berlin.

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

The head of the rebels' self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said he was "ready to discuss" Putin's proposal, but demanded Kiev fulfil the tattered peace plan before any deployment happens.

China's Xi urges 'healthy' India ties after border spat: Xinhua
Xiamen, China (AFP) Sept 5, 2017
Chinese President Xi Jinping sought Tuesday to move past a tense border dispute with India, telling Prime Minister Narendra Modi the two nuclear-armed neighbours should pursue "healthy, stable" relations, according to China's state media. The exchange occurred on the sidelines of the just-ended summit of BRICS emerging economies hosted by Xi in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen. Xi ... read more

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