The escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine is a matter of deep concern, India on Tuesday told the United Nations Security Council.
After Russia recognised the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, territories in Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, the United Nations held an emergency Security Council meeting to discuss the deepening crisis. Officials in Ukraine warned that the recognition could allow separatist leaders to seek military assistance from Russia, possibly paving the way for an invasion.
“These developments have the potential to undermine peace and security of the region,” said TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations. He also called for restraint on all sides and stressed that the immediate priority should be de-escalation of the tensions.
“We’re convinced that this issue can only be resolved through diplomatic dialogue,” the Indian official added. “We need to give space to recent initiatives undertaken by parties which seek to diffuse tensions.”
He also called for implementation of the Minsk Agreements as these provide “basis for a negotiated and peaceful settlement”. Under the agreements, the separatist territories would rejoin Ukraine, though only in a federal way that could give the territories a veto over Kyiv’s foreign policy.
At the emergency meeting, Tirumurti said that the world cannot afford to have a military escalation between Russia and Ukraine.
India said that it was concerned about the safety and security of civilians. “More than 20,000 Indian students and nationals live and study in different parts of Ukraine, including in its border areas,” the official told diplomats. “The well-being of Indian nationals is of priority to us.”
Tirumurti concluded his speech without making any reference to Ukraine’s sovereignty or condemn Russian actions. “We strongly emphasise the vital need for all sides to maintain international peace and security by exercising the utmost restraint and intensifying diplomatic efforts to ensure that a mutually amicable solution is arrived at the earliest,” he said.
Meanwhile, China, one of Russia’s closest allies, also chose to not take sides and called for all parties to “avoid any action that may fuel tensions”.
China’s United Nations ambassador, Zhang Jun, in his brief remarks told the Security Council that the current situation was a result of many complex factors.
Other members condemn Russian actions
In contrast, the United States and its allies denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk areas in Ukraine.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Putin’s announcement that Russian troops have been ordered to perform “peacekeeping functions” in both the breakaway rebel regions is simply “nonsense”.
She added, “We know what they really are.”
Kenya’s ambassador at the UN Martin Kimani pointed out that many countries were “birthed by the ending of empire” and urged against “dangerous nostalgia” for past borders. He stated that Russia’s actions breaches the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“Multilateralism lies on its deathbed tonight,” Kimani added. “It has been assaulted today, as it has been by other powerful states in the recent past.”
Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s ambassador to the United Nations, also criticised Russia’s move saying it “contravenes international law”.
Ferit Hoxha, Albania’s representative, noted that Moscow had made similar decisions in Georgia in 2008 and Crimea, Politico reported. “Who is next?” Hoxha asked.
Ukraine’s ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, the second last diplomat to speak at the United Nations meeting, stressed that his country’s borders remain “unchangeable” despite Moscow’s actions.
Separately, in a statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also spoke against Russia’s move to recognise separatist regions as independent. He added that it was “inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.
Since early this year, Russia has amassed over 1 lakh troops at the Ukrainian border. Reports also said that 30,000 more troops are engaged in exercises in Belarus, close to its border with Ukraine.
The two countries have been engaged in a conflict since 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and pro-Russian separatists set up the two rebel republics – in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – that had not been recognised by any other state.
Russia has consistently maintained that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. Last week, there were reports that the country was pulling back some of its troops from the border. But, the United States and allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have rejected these claims.
On Monday, Moscow claimed that it has killed five Ukrainian “saboteurs” who had crossed into Russia. Ukraine, however, has denied the claims.
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