Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Russia, US exchange accusations over Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Russia accused the West of “whipping up tensions” over Ukraine and said the United States (US) had brought “pure Nazis” to power in Kyiv as the United Nations (UN) Security Council held a stormy and bellicose debate on Moscow’s troop build-up near its southern neighbour.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield shot back that Russia’s growing military force of more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders was “the largest mobilisation” in Europe in decades, adding that there has been a spike in cyberattacks and Russian disinformation.

“And they are attempting, without any factual basis, to paint Ukraine and Western countries as the aggressors to fabricate a pretext for attack,” she said.

The harsh exchanges in the Security Council came as Moscow lost an attempt to block the meeting and reflected the gulf between the two nuclear powers.

It was the first open session where all protagonists in the Ukraine crisis spoke publicly, even though the UN’s most powerful body took no action. Hours later, the Russian government sent a written response to a US proposal aimed at deescalating the crisis, according to three Biden administration officials.

The officials all spoke on the condition of anonymity. A State Department official declined to offer details of the response, saying it “would be unproductive to negotiate in public” and that they would leave it up to Russia to discuss the counterproposal.

Ukrainian soldiers examine their tanks at a military unit close to Kharkiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

Although more high-level diplomacy is expected this week, talks between the US and Russia have so far failed to ease tensions in the crisis, with the West saying Moscow is preparing for an invasion.

Russia denies it is planning to attack, demanding pledges that Ukraine will never join NATO, a halt to the deployment of NATO weapons near Russian borders and a rollback of the alliance’s forces from Eastern Europe. NATO and the US call those non-starters.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the US of interfering in his country’s internal affairs and seeking “a classic example of megaphone diplomacy”.

Thomas-Greenfield countered that the US has held over 100 private meetings in the past few weeks with Russian officials and European and Ukrainian colleagues, and “it’s now time” for a discussion in public.

To Russia’s assertion that the US called the meeting to make all council members feel uncomfortable, she retorted, “Imagine how uncomfortable you would be if you had 100,000 troops sitting on your border.”

After the council gave a green light for the meeting, Nebenzia accused the Biden administration of “whipping up tensions and rhetoric and provoking escalation”.

“You are almost pulling for this,” he said in his speech to the council, looking at Thomas-Greenfield. “You want it to happen. You’re waiting for it to happen, as if you want to make your words become a reality.”

He blamed the US for the 2014 ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv, saying it brought to power “nationalists, radicals, Russophobes and pure Nazis” and created the antagonism that exists between Ukraine and Russia.

Nebenzia pointedly left the council chamber as the Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya started to speak.