A week before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin ambassador to the UN claimed that the West was driven by its determination to destroy Russia, declaring: “We had no choice but to defend our country; defend it before you to defend our identity and our future.”
Western ambassadors fired back, accusing Russia of using a Security Council meeting where it learned lessons from the failure to resolve the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists that began in 2014 to justify what France’s UN Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere called “the unjustified”. – Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor on February 24, 2022.
Friday’s meeting at the Council, the only international venue where Russia regularly confronts Ukraine and its Western backers, highlighted the deep rift between the warring factions as the conflict enters its second year with no end in sight is expected, tens of thousands of casualties on both sides and new military offensives.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, accused Western nations, including France and Germany, of “holding back” on implementing the two countries’ brokered Minsk accords to end the conflict between Ukraine and separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk in the country’s predominantly Russian-speaking industrial east . flared up in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“You knew very well that the Minsk process is just a smokescreen for you to arm the Kiev regime and prepare it for a war against Russia in the name of your geopolitical interests,” Nebenzia said.
US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills accused Russia of failing to implement “a single commitment it made in the Minsk Accords,” while the other signatories – France, Germany, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – “tried to implement them in good faith.”
Frenchman De Riviere said his country and Germany had been working “tirelessly” to promote dialogue between the parties since 2015. “The difficulties encountered in the implementation of these agreements can never serve as justification or mitigating circumstances for Russia’s decision to end the dialogue by force,” he stressed.
De Riviere recalled that exactly a year ago, on February 17, 2022, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin reiterated to the Council that the Minsk agreements are “the only international legal basis” to resolve the conflict in Ukraine and that there are rumors of Russian military intervention were unfounded and stemmed from Western paranoia. Four days later, Russia recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk and invaded Ukraine on February 24.
“The only lesson we need to learn here is that by attacking Ukraine, Russia chose to put an end to dialogue and negotiations,” De Riviere said. “It took only the decision to break the Minsk accords, the main goal of which, recall, was the reincorporation of some regions of Donetsk and Luhansk under full Ukrainian sovereignty in exchange for broad decentralization.”
British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward also quoted Vershinin’s statement to the council that claims of a Russian attack a week before President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion were unfounded, and said the UK had learned some lessons.
“Russia lied when we warned about its intention to attack Ukraine,” she said. “Russia planned war while we called for diplomacy and de-escalation, and Russia continues to choose death and destruction while the world calls for a just peace.”
Russia’s Nebenzia blamed the refusal to implement the Minsk accords on “a criminal policy by the Ukrainian leadership, incited by the collective West”.
After a year of war, he told Western members of the Security Council: “Obviously we will not be able to live in the future as we have in the past.”
Nebenzia accused the West of “deep Russophobia” and a “determination to destroy my country and use others if possible”. And he claimed that it is not interested in “building a European and Euro-Atlantic security system together with Russia” because “for you such a system can only be directed against Russia”.
“We no longer have confidence in you and cannot believe in your promises – either in relation to a non-enlargement of NATO in the east, nor in your desire not to interfere in our internal affairs, or your determination to live in peace” said Nebenzia.
“You have shown that you are impossible to negotiate with,” he said. “You have shown how treacherous you are by creating a neo-Nazi, neo-nationalist hive on our borders and then churning it up.”
Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Russia of violating the Minsk agreements, citing as an example the Minsk Memorandum of December 7, 2014, the order to all military, militia and mercenaries to leave Ukraine, which was never implemented became.
“The truth is that Putin has proved once and for all that it is impossible to negotiate with him,” he said. “Russia’s consistent undermining and outright killing of the Minsk accords makes that crystal clear.”
Ukraine is urging “healthy forces in Russia, if there are any, to come to their senses and force Putin to implement the UN General Assembly’s demands to immediately stop the use of force and withdraw Russian forces from Ukraine,” Kyslytsya said. “The dictator should give up and retreat to the past.”
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