Russia’s first experience of participating in peacekeeping missions took place during the war in Croatia in the early 1990s. The Croats’ desire to secede from Yugoslavia was rejected by local Serbs, who instead announced the establishment of their own unrecognized state, the Republic of Serbian Krajina.
A UN peacekeeping force, which included 900 Russian soldiers, was to provide protection to the local population, until the parties reached a consensus. However, in 1995, the Croatian army and police forcefully occupied the territory of the self-proclaimed republic, which made the presence of the peacekeepers there pointless.
Two autonomous regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – first aspired to political independence in the late 1980s. After the collapse of the USSR, that aspiration turned into an open armed confrontation with the Georgian army. After the parties managed to agree on a ceasefire in 1992 and 1993, Russian peacekeeping forces were deployed to the conflict zones.
In August 2008, the Georgian army attacked the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, which resulted in the death of 15 peacekeepers, the deployment of Russia’s 58th Army into the region and the start of the so-called ‘Five-Day War’ between Georgia and Russia, with Abkhazia joining it on Russia’s side.
As a result of the hostilities, the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were completely cleared of Georgian troops. At the end of August, the parliaments of the two republics formally asked Russia to recognize their independence, which Russia eventually did. In October of the same year, Russian peacekeepers were withdrawn from the two regions and replaced with border guards and units of the regular Russian army.
When Moldova became independent in 1991, not all of its citizens welcomed this development. Located in the eastern part of the country and populated mainly by Russian speakers, the self-proclaimed Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic strongly opposed a political break with the USSR (ie. Russia). Its residents were also not happy about the decision to switch the Moldovan language to the Latin script and did not share Moldovans’ gravitation towards rapprochement with Romania.
In the end, growing contradictions led to armed clashes in the spring and summer of 1992. With Russia’s participation, a ceasefire was agreed. To maintain peace in the zone of the armed conflict, a Joint Peacekeeping Force was set up comprising Russian, Moldovan and Transnistrian military personnel. The conflict has still not been settled and the status of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic remains unresolved to this day.
The civil war that broke out in Tajikistan in 1992 threatened to create major problems for the entire Central Asian region, as the opposition forces fighting against the government were supported by Islamic radicals from neighboring Afghanistan. Groups of militants began to regularly break through the Tajik-Afghan border, which was guarded by Russian border guards, among others.
At the request of the president of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, a Collective Peacekeeping Force under the auspices of the CIS (comprising Russian, Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Kazakh servicemen) entered the country. They began to guard the key strategic facilities (airports, hydroelectric power stations, oil pipelines, arms depots, etc.), beefed up border defenses and, with the beginning of the peace process, ensured the return of thousands of refugees to their homeland.
The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was always very ethnically diverse. When the country began to break up, it turned out that local Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats had radically different views on their political future. In the resulting Bosnian War, some 100,000 people were killed, making it Europe’s bloodiest since World War II.
Russian peacekeepers numbering up to 1,500 people were stationed in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1996 to 2003. They operated as part of the IFOR/SFOR multinational peacekeeping force ensuring the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnian War. Although IFOR/SFOR was NATO-led, the Russian contingent in it was subordinate to the Russian General Staff.
In the late 1990s, while the situation in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina was gradually returning to normal, a new hotbed of tension emerged in the Balkans. In Kosovo and Metohija, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia clashed with local Albanian rebels, who were fighting for the province’s independence. A growing number of war crimes on both sides soon attracted the attention of the international community.
NATO openly supported the Kosovar Albanians, insisting that Yugoslav troops withdraw from the province. In addition to the illegal bombing of Yugoslavia, the alliance was planning to send the KFOR international peacekeeping force into Kosovo. Russia, which was supporting the Serbs, wanted to take part in the peacekeeping operation, but the Americans had no intention of involving it.
On June 12, 1999, Russian paratroopers stationed in Bosnia marched to Pristina, where they occupied the strategically important Slatina airport, ahead of the British troops, which appeared there soon. Despite the stand-off between Russia and NATO, Russian peacekeepers (about 3,600 people) remained in Kosovo until 2003 and even collaborated with the KFOR force from time to time.
For 11 years, from 1991 to 2002, a civil war was raging in the West African country of Sierra Leone between the central government and a rebel Revolutionary United Front. It claimed the lives of 50,000 to 300,000 civilians and ended with the establishment of a coalition government.
During the final stage of the conflict, UN peacekeeping troops were brought into the country to monitor the parties’ implementation of the ceasefire. As part of this force, Russia dispatched a group of Mi-24 attack helicopters and about 100 technical personnel to Sierra Leone.
After gaining independence in 1956, Sudan spent half a century (with a short break) in a state of civil war between the north of the country populated by Arab Muslims and the south with its non-Arab Christian population. In 2005, the parties managed to sit down at the negotiating table and end the bloodshed, after which a UN peacekeeping force was sent to the country.
In it, Russia was represented by Interior Ministry officers, a group of four Mi-8 helicopters and 120 personnel. And soon after South Sudan was internationally recognized as an independent state, the peacekeepers were withdrawn from the region.
From 2008 to 2010, a Russian aviation group (four Mi-8 helicopters) took part in a peacekeeping mission in Chad and the Central African Republic, which were brought to the brink of a humanitarian disaster by local armed groups. Russian peacekeepers transported UN cargos and personnel, conducted evacuations, performed search and rescue and observation flights and also provided assistance to refugees, of whom there were over 500,000 in the region.
One of the most violent and protracted conflicts on the territory of the former Soviet Union, the confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control over Nagorno-Karabakh, escalated yet again in September 2020. After several months of fierce fighting, the sides, through Russia’s (and specifically President Putin’s) mediation, managed to agree on a cessation of hostilities from November 10.
Under the agreement, a Russian peacekeeping contingent of 1,960 troops with 90 armored personnel carriers, as well as automotive and special vehicles are to be deployed along the line of contact in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor. The peacekeepers will be in the region for a period of five years. The duration of their stay can also be automatically extended, unless either party declares its intention to terminate the agreement.
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