WASHINGTON – Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday that Kyiv still hopes for a diplomatic resolution with Russia even as Moscow sends more troops and weapons to its border.
“If Russia has any questions to Ukraine, it is better to meet and talk, not to bring troops to the Ukrainian borders and intimidate Ukrainian people,” said Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya at a United Nations Security Council meeting.
The Ukrainian diplomat is not a member of the council but was invited to participate as the crisis escalates at his country’s border. He pushed back on Russian claims that Kyiv was prepared to mount an attack.
“Ukraine is not going to launch a military offensive, neither in Donbass, nor Crimea nor anywhere else,” Kyslytsya said.
“The Kremlin must remember that Ukraine is ready to defend itself. At the same time we support the need to keep diplomatic channels with Russia open,” he added.
His remarks come as an estimated 100,000 troops equipped with advanced weaponry line Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia and northern border with Belarus, a Moscow ally.
“It is in the interest of everyone to prevent the war or rather to prevent the renewal of an active phase of the military ongoing aggression,” Kyslytsya told reporters at the United Nations following the two-hour meeting.
“Everyone will suffer, even if you are far away from Ukraine,” he said, referencing possible global economic repercussions from war.
The ambassadors from the U.S. and Russia clashed at the international forum, which did not yield any action or a joint statement from participants.
Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya blamed the United States for “provoking escalation” at the border and for falsely accusing Moscow of preparing to invade Ukraine.
“You’re waiting for it to happen, as if you want your words to become a reality,” Nebenzya said in remarks directed toward U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Nebenzya called the U.S. “particularly hypocritical” for convening the U.N. Security Council.
“It’s the Americans who hold the record for having troop presences outside their territory,” he said. “The military adventures of the U.S. have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in countries where they were supposed to be bringing peace and democracy,” he added.
Thomas-Greenfield defended her decision to request the meeting on behalf of the United States.
“You’ve heard from our Russian colleagues that we’re calling for this meeting to make you uncomfortable. Imagine how uncomfortable you would be if you had 100,000 troops sitting on your border in the way that these troops are sitting on the border with Ukraine,” she said.
“You hear me clearly, this is the largest mobilization of troops in Europe in decades. And as we speak, Russia is sending even more forces and arms to join them,” she said, adding, “What would it mean for the world if former empires had license to start reclaiming territory by force? This would set us down a dangerous path.”
“Russia could of course, choose a different path. The path of diplomacy,” Thomas-Greenfield continued.
At the White House, President Joe Biden told reporters that he had a productive discussion with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week.
Biden reiterated that the U.S. remains “ready no matter what happens” should Russia pursue aggression in lieu of diplomacy.
Last week, the Pentagon’s top officials warned that the aftermath of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “horrific.”
“Given the type of forces that are arrayed, the ground maneuver forces, the artillery, the ballistic missiles, the air forces, all of it packaged together. If that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant, and it would result in a significant amount of casualties,” Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.
“It would be horrific,” added Milley.
Milley, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, said that Russia’s posture along Ukraine’s border was unlike anything he has seen during his four-decade military career.
He said the Russians have deployed air forces, naval forces, special forces, cyber electronic warfare, command and control, logistics engineers and other capabilities along Ukraine’s border.
The Kremlin has denied that the troop deployment is a prelude to an attack and has instead characterized the movement as a military exercise.
Russian officials have repeatedly called on the U.S. to prevent an eastward expansion of the NATO military alliance.
Russia has also demanded that the U.S. “shall not establish military bases” in the territories of any former Soviet states that are not already members of NATO, or “use their infrastructure for any military activities or develop bilateral military cooperation with them.”
The U.S. and NATO have previously said that such a request from the Kremlin cannot be accommodated.