Ukraine’s Blue Helmets: 28 Years of Global Peacekeeping
September 21, 2019, is International Day of Peace declared by UN General Assembly as a devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. On this day the UN called on all to cease fire and refrain from any kind of violence
Viktor Holumbivskyi was part of the peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. The Ukrainian peacekeeping mission has been there since 1999.
Ukrainian peacekeepers go on patrol during religious holidays to prevent provocations, accompany humanitarian supplies, and do everything to ensure the security of the civilian population, at times risking their lives.
“On March 17, 2008, the guys and I were involved in a special operation to free a court building in the city of Mitrovica. It was captured by Serbian radicals. They fired at us and threw grenades into the building. Unfortunately, my best friend, Senior Lieutenant Ihor Kinal, was killed. A grenade exploded under his feet. 25 other guys were injured. But we completed the task, the court was freed,” head of information support at a PR and publishing center, National Guard of Ukraine Victor Holumbivskyi said.
Since Ukraine gained independence in 1991, the armed forces took part in peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavian republics, Georgia, Northern Macedonia, Angola, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Côte d’Ivoire. Overall, the military took part in peacekeeping operations in 25 countries around the world. Their experience has been a key asset to the armed forces since Russia began its military intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Victor did not expect he would need to use the experience gained in overseas missions at home. Now he is a civil-military cooperation officer working with the residents of frontline areas in Donbas.
“I think that peacekeepers should be deployed along the front line and along the state border with Russia. This will stop the shelling by the Kremlin-controlled militants. And also — it will stop the influx of weapons and mercenaries from Russia. And so, after a while, Ukraine will regain control over the temporarily occupied territories and the state border,” Holumbivskyi said.
Despite the war in the east the country, the Ukrainian armed forces continue their involvement in peacekeeping missions across the globe. Among them is a Ukrainian helicopter squad in Congo. The war there, ongoing since the mid-90s, has claimed around 5 million lives.
“My main job is to guard and defend the perimeter of the camp, as well as our aviation depots. This is important because that’s where ammunition is stored. We guard the camp and keep our battle comrades safe,” a machine gunner, 18th detached helicopter squad of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Yaroslav Matviyiv said.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine Yaroslav was deployed to the frontline in Donbas, where he spent several years — first, with a volunteer unit, and later with the 93rd Brigade.
He says Ukrainian soldiers are now respected worldwide.
“It is very important to show our image as that of skillful warriors, and to show that we strive for peace not only in our country but throughout the world,” Matviyiv said.
On Peace Day, the UN calls for a ceasefire and an end to violence. Unfortunately, hostilities continue in many countries around the world, including Ukraine.