Ukrainian forces to withdraw from Iraq?

Initially, Ukrainian authorities denied the information on withdrawing the Ukrainian forces from town Al-Kut in Iraq.
On April 6 the Press Department of Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reported that the peace-keepers did not leave the town, but, on the contrary, took over the control of the town government building, the TV Center, the bridge and some other strategic objects, and averted the attempts of combatants to fire the base of 6th Mechanized brigade of Ukrainian forces in Iraq.

The following day everybody understood that the situation in Al-Kut was more serious than it was presented in the information of Ukrainian officials. Information appeared on the death of Ukrainian machine-gunner from peace-keeping special force platoon Ruslan Androshuk and 5 his fellow-soldiers wounded in the fight over control of the bridge to the Tigris river.

At night of April 7, the militants supporting Muktada al-Sadr (so-called Makdi Army) repetadly fired at the positions of the Ukrainian troops from small arms and mortars. The Ukrainians fired back, there were reports on many killed Iraqis. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian troops retreated to the base in the aerodrome outside the town, early in the morning of April 7, backed by other peace-keepers and fighter-helicopters. They managed to retreat safely.

Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reports that currently the situation in the zone of responsibility of Ukrainian peace-keepers is “unstable, but under the control”. There were no new attacks on the Ukrainian forces so far.

Meanwhile, some information was coming from Al-Kut. The Daily Telegraph wrote that the Ukrainian troops retreated despite the order of the coalition force command to stay firmly on their positions, and the command was furious about this. In addition, they allegedly left the representatives of the civil administrations unprotected in the city. Ukrainian Ministry of Defense produced no reaction on these allegations.

The situation in Iraq resulted in heated political debates in Ukraine. Ukrainian Communists made a statement that “liberation war against the occupants is in progress”. “Unfortunately, Ukrainian troops joined the occupation forces under the pressure of the USA and the offer of President Kuchma”. The Communist fraction in the Ukrainian Parliament urged to consider the bill on withdrawing the Ukrainian peace-keepers from Iraq submitted by Communists.

Parliamentary Fraction of “Our Ukraine” opposition movement previously supported deploying Ukrainian troops in Iraq, but now decided to support the appeal to President Kuchma about withdrawing the troops. The representatives of “Our Ukraine” name failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as the valid grounds for withdrawing the Ukrainian peace-keepers.

Andrey Lubensky

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