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Ukrainian peacekeepers in DR Congo
Recently, it became known that the presence of Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent in Democratic Republic of the Congo has been reduced. Lieutenant-General Derrick Mbuiselo Mgveby (South Africa), commander of the UN peacekeeping forces in DR Congo, reported this during his visit to the deployment sites of the 18th separate helicopter detachment of Ukrainian armed forces.
"The UN leadership in New York has decided to reduce the authorized number of personnel and equipment of the peacekeeping stabilization mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," said Lieutenant General Mgveby. "We are talking about significant savings in the budget of both the peacekeeping mission and the Organization of United Nations as a whole, and not about the quality of the duties performance by the contingent. We have to sacrifice a huge amount of personnel and equipment in such a way that this process does not affect the stabilization of peace in the African country. "
Mgvebi added that since July 1, the financing of the mission has been significantly reduced:
"Regarding the provision of troops, we are forced to cut 40% of the budget, but these 40% will be transformed into new opportunities. One of these nuances is the withdrawal of four MI-24 helicopters, this is what should be transformed into new opportunities. "
The commander of the 18th separate helicopter detachment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, sniper-pilot Colonel Yuri Verbelchuk confirmed that Mi-24 combat helicopters will be withdrawn from the Ukrainian contingent, and Mi-8 military transport helicopters will arrive in the Congo instead. "Several other tasks will be set before the detachment, but Ukrainian military are ready to carry out them in full 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," Verbelchuk assured.
According to the UN, to date, there are 15 peacekeeping operations around the world. Of these, 8 are on the African continent. Ukrainian peacekeepers participate in 4 of them. Now Ukrainians are present in such African countries as Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Southern Sudan and the Abyei region (the disputed territory between Sudan and Southern Sudan). Together with operations in Cyprus and Kosovo, Ukraine participates in 6 peacekeeping and security operations. As a whole, as of August 31, 2017, 422 Ukrainian peacekeepers are participating in UN peacekeeping operations.
The total number of peacekeepers from all countries is 95,467 people. The first three countries in terms of the number of peacekeepers are headed by Ethiopia, Bangladesh and India. Ukraine is on the 44th place among 124 countries that provided their contingents for participation in peacekeeping missions. Regarding this Ukraine is ahead of such permanent members of the UN Security Council, as the United States and Russia, and inferior to China, Britain, France.
The total number of Ukrainian servicemen who took part in peacekeeping operations was 42 thousand people, 54 of them died during their official duties.
Ukraine has been a participant in peacekeeping operations in such countries of Africa as Angola, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Cote d'Ivoire. To date, these operations have been completed, and the contingents have been disbanded.
The 18th separate helicopter detachment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is serving within the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 10 February 2012. The main base is the Goma Camp in the province of East Kivu. Now in Africa there is the seventh rotation of the detachment. The regular strength of it is 250 men and 16 people of national personnel. In service are 4 combat helicopters Mi-24 and 4 transport helicopters Mi-28MT. The range of tasks performed by Ukrainian peacekeepers is very diverse: from aerial reconnaissance and delivery of cargoes and UN personnel to providing fire support to UN ground forces, if necessary.
The decrease in MONUSCO funding and strength is carried out in accordance with Resolution 2348 (2017), adopted by the Security Council at its 7910th meeting on March 31 this year. As reported on the official page of MONUSCO, the UN Security Council unanimously supported the extension of the Mission until March 31, 2018, but at the same time reduced the overall strength of the mission by 3,700 people - from 22,016 to 18,316.
Thus, the MONUSCO budget from 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017 amounted to $ 1,235,723,100. The Mission's budget for the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 will be $ 1,141,848,100, that is, $ 93.9 million, less. The overall budget for peacekeeping operations has also been reduced.
Opinions sound that the reduction in finances of UN peacekeeping activities is connected with the position of US President Donald Trump, who believes that the US contribution to the general and the budget for UN peacekeeping operations is quite large. However, if you consider the budgets of peacekeeping operations from 2014, you can observe a systematic reduction in the cost of peacekeeping missions. Whether this process depends on the desire or unwillingness of the US president is a question. It should be noted that the United States is the main donor of the United Nations in terms of both the general budget, where the US share is 22%, and peacekeeping operations (more than 28%), so the logic of the US president can be fully understood. Based on UN data, it becomes clear that the formation of UN budgets is conducted exactly the way it should be.
We return to the topic of the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent in Congo. As mentioned above, the reduction will affect the 18th separate helicopter detachment of Ukrainian Armed Forces. So, according to Lieutenant-General Derrick Mbuezilo Mgveby, 4 Mi-24 combat helicopters should be withdrawn from the detachment, and 2 cargo Mi-8 will replace them. That is, theoretically, there will be 6 Mi-8 transport helicopters. In accordance with this, the personnel - the number pilots who flew on these helicopters are being reduced.
Recently, the press service of the General Staff reported that starting in 2018, the rotation of Ukrainian servicemen in the national contingents of peacekeeping operations will be held every 6 months. At the same time, the department noted that to date, rotation occurs every 12 months.
Taking into account the time of the adoption of resolution and the gradual reduction of UN peacekeepers' expenditures for several years, it can be assumed that the decrease in MONUSCO funding occurred within the overall reduction, and not because of the position of President Donald Trump, although this is not excluded. Another confirmation of this thesis is the fact that the combat component of 18th detachment is being withdrawn from the Congo. In other words, I want to believe that there is progress in establishing peace in the Congo. This, in fact, is confirmed by the text of Resolution 2348 (2017).
What does this mean for Ukraine? First, it is a reduction in the flight period of combat pilots, which Ukrainians received through participation in the peacekeeping contingent. One can speculate about the fact that "Ukrainian pilots must stay at home and take part in Donbas conflict." However, at once I want to make an objection: for today, combat aviation does not take part in direct combat operations. Another argument is that Ukraine did not reduce its presence in peacekeeping missions, even in the midst of hostilities in 2014-2015.
There is also a financial aspect. So, according to the source, Ukrainian Mi-24 for an hour of flight in the African sky brought to the budget of Ukraine about 5 thousand dollars, Mi-8 - a thousand less.
It is very important that the reduction took place at the initiative of the United Nations, not Ukraine. In the case of peacekeeping, Ukraine has established itself as a reliable partner, fulfilling its obligations, even when the territory of Ukraine itself is at war.
In general, the reduction in the cost of peacekeeping activities is a very alarming signal, because the number of "hot spots" on the planet is steadily growing, and the tendency to reduce their number is absent. Therefore, the UN assistance in the restoration of peace and stability may be needed even in more countries and regions than it is now. This raises the issue of effective use of available budgets for peacekeeping operations.