Tense Accusations Exchanged by Russia and US over Ukraine at UN

On Monday, Russia accused the West of “inflaming tensions” over Ukraine, saying the US had installed “pure Nazis” in Kyiv, as the United Nations Security Council debated Moscow’s force deployment near its southern neighbor.

Russia’s rising military presence of over 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, according to US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is “the greatest mobilization” in Europe in decades, with a jump in cyberattacks and Russian misinformation.

“And they’re aiming to characterize Ukraine and Western countries as aggressors without any factual foundation in order to create a pretext for invasion,” she added.

The tense discussions in the Security Council erupted after Moscow failed to veto the meeting, highlighting the chasm that exists between the two nuclear powers. Even though the United Nations’ most powerful body took no action, it was the first open session when all actors in the Ukraine issue spoke publicly.

According to three Biden administration officials, the Russian government delivered a formal response to a US proposal aimed at deescalating the tension hours later. On the condition of anonymity, all of the officials talked. A State Department official declined to comment on the answer, saying that it “would be pointless to negotiate in public” and that they would leave the counterproposal to Russia to discuss.

Despite the fact that further high-level diplomacy is scheduled this week, negotiations between the US and Russia have so far failed to defuse the issue, with the West accusing Moscow of planning an invasion. Russia has denied that it intends to attack. It seeks guarantees that Ukraine would never join NATO, a halt to NATO military deployment near Russian borders, and a withdrawal of NATO soldiers from Eastern Europe. Those are referred to as nonstarters by NATO and the US.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States of meddling in his country’s domestic affairs and pursuing “a textbook example of megaphone diplomacy.”

Thomas-Greenfield retorted that the US has conducted over 100 private discussions with Russian officials, European and Ukrainian counterparts in recent weeks, and that “it’s now time” for a public conversation.

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

Nebenzia accused the Biden administration of “whipping up tensions and hyperbole and encouraging escalation” after the council approved the meeting.

In his statement to the council, he looked at Thomas-Greenfield and stated, “You’re almost pulling for this.” “You want it to happen,” says the narrator. You’re waiting for something to happen, as if you want your words to come true.”

He blamed the United States for the fall of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv in 2014, claiming that it sent “nationalists, extremists, Russophobes, and genuine Nazis” to power and fueled the animosity between Ukraine and Russia.

As Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya began to speak, Nebenzia abruptly exited the council room. “How long will Russia exert pressure, will it continue to make a blatant attempt to drag Ukraine and its allies into a Kafka-like situation?” Kyslytsva had inquired.

The proposal to have an open meeting was approved by a vote of 10-2, with Russia and China voting against it and India, Gabon, and Kenya abstaining. For the meeting to proceed, nine “yes” votes were required.

The United States and its allies pushed for the meeting to take place on Monday, the penultimate day of Norway’s rotating chair of the UN Security Council before Russia takes over on Tuesday for the month of February.

Given Russia’s veto power and its relationships with other members of the Security Council, notably China, any declaration or decision by the Security Council is exceedingly improbable.

The US and Russia sparred again after all 15 council members spoke, with Thomas-Greenfield stating she was “disappointed” by Nebenzia’s remarks and emphasizing that Russian threats of action are “provocative.”

The summit, according to US President Joe Biden, was “a key step in uniting the globe to speak out in one voice” against the use of force and for military de-escalation.

Biden stated at the opening of a White House meeting with Qatar’s ruling emir that the US is engaged in “nonstop diplomacy,” but that “we are ready no matter what happens.”

The State Department ordered American diplomats’ families to leave Belarus on Monday, where Russia is deploying troops, tanks, and other equipment in what Moscow calls a military drill.

Western officials are concerned that Russia’s force buildup may be used as a springboard to attack neighboring Ukraine, particularly Kyiv, from the north. Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops are already stationed around Ukraine’s borders.

Belarusian officials have already driven out the majority of US Embassy personnel, leaving fewer family members to be affected by Monday’s directive. In addition, the United States has reduced its diplomatic presence in Ukraine.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak by phone on Tuesday. The Russian story was corroborated by a senior State Department official.

Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, will visit Ukraine on Tuesday for discussions with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and to encourage Russian President Vladimir Putin to “step back,” according to Johnson’s office. As a show of force, Johnson said he is considering sending hundreds of British troops to NATO nations in the Baltic area.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress indicated Monday that they were still split on some of the dates in the proposed sanctions legislation against Russia. A significant sticking point, parliamentarians claimed, was a Republican desire to slap penalties on Nord Stream 2, a Russian natural gas pipeline to Germany, even before any further Russian advance into Ukraine. The Biden administration believes that sanctions against Nord Stream should be delayed until after any invasion, claiming that doing so now would alienate an ally, Germany, and weaken the sanctions threat’s deterrent value.

Sen. Bob Menendez, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned on Sunday that if Russia is attacked, Democrats want “the mother of all sanctions” imposed. This includes moves against Russian banks that may significantly stifle the Russian economy, as well as expanded deadly assistance to Ukraine’s military.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Monday that the administration was heartened by Congress’s bipartisan effort “to hold Russia responsible.” The administration has previously voiced worry that preemptive penalties would reduce its power over Russia, but as the Foreign Relations Committee prepares to act, the White House appears to be warming to the idea.

“We believe sanctions can be an effective instrument of deterrence,” Psaki said, “and the escalating sell-off in Russian markets reflects our message to Russia.”

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