UNIFIL - Ukrainian peacekeeping forces in Lebanon (with photos)
Ukrainian peacekeepers participated in numerous missions in the last 30 years. They have been involved in a big number of countries, doing various military and humanitarian jobs. One of the rare scenarios for the Ukrainian UN personnel was the participation in the engineering mission in Lebanon. The task of the 3rd Engineer Battalion was to demine the territory on the Israeli-Lebanon border.
Brief history of the UNIFIL mission
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is a peacekeeping mission established by the United Nations Security Council in 1978 to monitor the ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon following the 1978 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The mission was originally created to confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon, restore peace and security, and assist the Lebanese government in restoring its authority over the area.
Since its establishment, the UNIFIL mission has evolved to become a more complex operation, with a mandate to ensure the cessation of hostilities and prevent the resumption of fighting, assist the Lebanese Armed Forces in taking full control of the south of Lebanon, and facilitate the humanitarian assistance provided by the UN and other organizations.
The mission's work includes conducting patrols, maintaining observation posts, and coordinating with the Lebanese Armed Forces to monitor and report on any violations of the ceasefire. UNIFIL also works to build confidence between the parties, promote dialogue, and support efforts to reduce tensions and prevent escalation of violence.
How Ukrainian peacekeepers got involved in UNIFIL
In 1999, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan addressed a letter to the President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma with a request for the possible participation of the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent in special peacekeeping operations in South Lebanon. The premise of K. Annan's appeal to the leadership of our country was the aggravation of the military-political situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border at that time, including the presence of a large number of minefields, which posed a threat to the local Lebanese population.
It is necessary to emphasize that the efforts of the engineering units of the infantry battalions of the UNSC to carry out demining in the territory along the Lebanese-Israeli border were not successful. Demining of this area by the engineering units of Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Poland was also unsuccessful. After numerous losses among sappers of the mentioned units, their activities were stopped.
According to the Decree of the President of Ukraine L.D. Kuchma dated 20.06.2000 No. 806/2000, from July 2000 to April 2006, the 3rd Ukrainian separate engineering battalion performed a peacekeeping mission as part of the UNIFIL, which was created in accordance with the resolution of the UN Security Council in March 1978 in order to control the withdrawal of Israeli troops from South Lebanon and to assist the Lebanese government in restoring its sovereignty over this area.
What did Ukrainian peacekeepers do in Lebanon?
The participation of Ukrainian peacekeepers in the UN Mission in Lebanon was their first mission in the Middle East. The main tasks of the Ukrainian Engineer Battalion were to carry out engineering reconnaissance of the area, operational demining and destruction of discovered munitions, laying passages in minefields, arranging roads and convoy routes, building of new strongholds and fortifications, arranging the positions of the units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, marking patrol routes, as well as in providing humanitarian aid to the local Lebanese population.
The battalion has proven itself in this eastern republic as a contingent of professionals and humanitarians. The commander of the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon, French General Alan Pellegrini, highly appreciated the professionalism of the Ukrainian contingent. He noted that he has no problems with Ukrbat and the 3rd separate engineer battalion of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is an example for colleagues on the mission to follow.
This is how the battalion commander of the 7th rotation, Colonel Andriy Kukharenko, summed up his mission in Lebanon:
— There were problems with the equipment of sappers. It must be certified in order to fully protect our boys from situations. The level of professional training of the battalion is quite high, and we could engage in humanitarian demining (complete land reclamation. — Author). Ukraine could receive a lot of money for this. However, we do not have the appropriate certificate for this type of activity. A special demining accreditation that meets international standards is required. And another big problem is the number of our peacekeepers. I think it is necessary to increase the personnel. People worked for wear and tear. After all, the staff was reduced, but our tasks, the volume of work did not decrease. The UNIFIL commander agrees with me on this. I think this issue will be considered at the UN level.