(CNSNews.com) – After failing in an attempt to prevent the U.N. Security Council from discussing the Ukraine crisis in an open meeting, Russia’s ambassador used the forum Monday to accuse the U.S. of pushing and hoping for a war in Ukraine.
“You are almost calling for this, you want it to happen, you’re waiting for it to happen, as if you want to make your words become a reality,” Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.
He accused Western nations of “whipping up tensions and rhetoric” about the stationing of Russian forces near Ukraine’s borders and a threat of invasion.
Nebenzia and his Chinese counterpart – who also tried unsuccessfully to prevent the meeting from going ahead – both said the U.S. and allies were engaging in “megaphone diplomacy” by wanting to discuss the situation in an open session.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that after numerous private meetings in recent weeks about the amassing of Russian troops near Ukraine, including with the Russians, Ukrainians, and European allies, “we think it’s now time to have a meeting in public and have this discussed in a public forum.”
“For us this is about peace and security. It’s about honoring the U.N. Charter that calls upon us as members of the Security Council to protect peace and security,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“So this is not about antics. It’s not about rhetoric. It’s not about U.S. and Russia. What this is about is the peace and security of – of one of our member states.”
At the State Department briefing later, spokesman Ned Price also defended the decision to push for an open meeting.
“This was the first time, despite dozens and dozens of private engagements, about 180 engagements in recent weeks alone, but this was the first time that the Security Council took up this question in an open session, and we thought that was important,” he said.
“We thought it was important that they do so in that venue and with that level of exposition so that the world could hear it and the Russian Federation could hear it.”
Russia earlier pushed to block the meeting, and when the council president called a vote, Russia and China voted against holding it. India, Kenya, and Gabon abstained, and the remaining 10 members (U.S., Britain, France, Albania, Brazil, Ghana, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, UAE) voted in favor of meeting.
During the debate, China called for the tensions to be resolved diplomatically, but also sided with Russia on the issue of NATO expansion.
“NATO is the product of the Cold War, and NATO expansion epitomizes group politics,” said Ambassador Zhang Jun.
“We believe that the security of one country cannot be achieved at the expense of the security of other countries – still less can regional security be guaranteed by intensifying or even expanding military groups.”
Zhang called for all countries to “abandon the Cold War mentality” and negotiate a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism.
“And Russia’s legitimate security concerns should be heeded and addressed.”
‘You want to make your words become a reality’
Moscow’s demand that the U.S. and NATO pledge to admit no new members to the alliance, with a particular reference to Ukraine, has repeatedly been ruled out by the West, although President Biden conceded last month that membership for Ukraine “in the near term is not very likely.”
Thomas-Greenfield told the council the Russian troop buildup was “the largest – hear me clearly – mobilization of troops in Europe in decades.”
In addition to “more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border,” she said, another 5,000 troops have entered Belarus, and “we’ve seen evidence that Russia intends to expand that presence to more than 30,000 troops near the Belarus-Ukraine border, less than two hours north of Kyiv, by early February.”
Belarus, Ukraine’s northern neighbor, and Russia have announced joint military drills over the new few weeks.
In his address to the council, Nebenzia called into question claims that 100,000 Russian troops were near Ukraine’s border.
“Where did you get the figure of 100,000 troops that are deployed, as you state, on the Russian-Ukrainian border, although that is not the case?” he asked, speaking through an interpreter. “We have never confirmed that figure.”
“The discussions about a threat of war is provocative in and of itself,” he said. “You are almost calling for this, you want it to happen, you’re waiting for it to happen, as if you want to make your words become a reality. This is despite the fact that we are constantly rejecting these allegations.”
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Nebenzia disputed that there was any link between Russia’s security concerns and the supposed threat of an invasion.
Asked if there were any circumstances in whichRussian troops would cross the border into Ukraine, he said, “I’m not the person to decide whatever happens,” but added that “no Russian politician, or even public figure, ever said that we are planning to attack Ukraine.”
The Kremlin has for months denied that there are plans to invade Ukraine.
In December, President Vladimir Putin warned that “if our Western colleagues continue their obviously aggressive line, we will take appropriate military-technical reciprocal measures and will have a tough response to their unfriendly steps.” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov several days earlier also referred to a “military and military-technical” Russian response.