Russia at the United Nations: “We Do Not Endanger the Lives of Civilians”

Press Conference by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia dedicated to the end of the Russian Presidency of UNSC in February 2022

Q: Ambassador, do you feel isolated on the world stage today? And also have you seen the French draft resolution in the Security Council on Ukraine, of course, on the humanitarian situation, and if yes, are you planning to support this? Thank you so much.

A: We don’t feel isolated, at least myself. There are a lot of countries that understand what the Russian position is, what Russia is doing and why. We have briefly seen the text of a French draft. It was not formally introduced. I think it will be introduced today by the French Ambassador and then we will see where we go from there.

Q: President Putin started this, describing it as a special military operation in Eastern Ukraine. It’s now spread across most of Ukraine. How would you describe what’s happening on the ground now? And Michelle Bachelet has said that more than 100 civilians so far have been killed. And yet you’re saying the Russian troops are not targeting civilians. How do you feel about defending the Russian military when civilians are being killed?

A: The Russian President said it was a special military operation in Ukraine, not in Donbas. Look, we have to understand what is happening. We have to go back into history that didn’t start even in 2014. The Ukrainian authorities started to persecute those who were not…[interrupted by an urgent phone call].

I Just received the information that the US authorities have undertaken another hostile action against the Russian mission to the United Nations, grossly violating their commitments under the host country agreement. They told us they are announcing twelve people (UN diplomats) from the personnel of the Russian mission persona non grata and demanding that they leave by March 7. They just visited the Russian mission and gave us a note prescribing us to do what they demand. You know that with the Secretary-General we raised the issue of arbitrage with the host country, which grossly violates its commitments under the host country agreement. So far it has not been done, but I think it’s high time already. This is just hot news that I received right away.

Q: Who are they and who is most senior?

A: I don’t know the names yet, but the number is twelve. This is sad news and another demonstration of gross disrespect to the host country agreement, to US commitments within the framework of their obligations, both under the UN Charter, the host country agreement and Vienna conventions.

Q: Can we just ask one more thing? Did they give a reason? What was their reason?

A: I don’t know yet. I haven’t seen the note. I will give you updates as soon as we have more information.

Coming back to Ukraine. As I said, the conflict has a long history. It didn’t start in 2013 or 2014, but 2014 was landmark, a threshold for what was growing and ripening slowly in Ukraine all those years after their independence and resulted in an unconstitutional coup and the war of Ukrainian regime against its own people who protested and who were opposed to what the Maidan regime was trying to implement.

For eight years, we’ve been trying, unfortunately in vain, to make Ukrainian authorities comply with the Minsk Agreements, and we went out of the way to do so. But from day one, after 2015 in particular, the Ukrainian authorities opted to sabotage first and then simply to deny, abandon, and cancel their commitments under the Minsk Agreements. Before that, they were trying to navigate, so to stay, within the Minsk Agreements, trying to make them the way which suited them. But then it became obvious – nothing works. And then in January-February 2022, when the West started to beef up Ukrainian state with lethal weapons, when Ukrainian authorities amassed 120,000 servicemen at the border of the contact-line with Donbas, and when they upscaled their provocations against Donbas shelling and killing people again, we realized that that was leading us nowhere.

And that’s why President Putin took the decision to recognize Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics and offer them military assistance within the treaty that we concluded. That’s why we launched this military operation in Donbas and in Ukraine, which, as I said today in the General Assembly, was not the war started by us. This is the end of war that was started by Ukraine. As you all know, we said many times that we were not planning military operations in Donbas unless Ukrainian authorities and Ukrainian military directly threatened those republics, which was the case. And we have credible information that the military operation was planned, and that was a move that was inevitable in the circumstances.

Q: There have been some reports out of the border meeting in Belarus between Russia and Ukraine. What is it, in your view, that would bring peace to Ukraine and withdrawal of Russian forces? What is that? And then a little follow-up to. Country after country are coming to the General Assembly podium and supporting Ukraine, feeling that Russia is the aggressor. What is your view of that, if not isolation? Thank you so much.

A: What will bring peace to Ukraine? As we said, that is demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, which creates a clear and immediate danger to us, also within the context of geopolitical stability, As President Putin said, if not today or tomorrow, one day in 30 or 50 years, Ukraine might and will perhaps become a NATO member that will move NATO to the Russian border, and that will be an existential threat for us. That is something that we will not allow to happen.

On the talks that were held on the border of Ukraine and Belarus, they finished at this stage. The details of that are not known to me, but I know that there was a decision to continue those talks. When and where I do not know yet, perhaps in the same place. What I know is that today President Putin spoke to President Macron and he listed those conditions that we demand from Ukrainians. They are well known: demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine; commitment to its neutral status, to not joining NATO and not moving weapons to our bodies.

I did not answer one question regarding the reports about 100 civilians dead. There are a lot of reports today, and I said that there are a lot of fake news. There are a lot of “fake factories” that produce those news. We do not have credible reports on civilian casualties. Of course, war is a bad thing and anything can happen. But it is difficult to consider those reports credible, since we are witnessing and encountering a massive propaganda campaign using, as I said, “troll factories”, that produce those news to which we referred to in our recent statements on numerous occasions.

Q: So you just referred to this as a war. This is now war?

A: This is a special military operation. War is how it is commonly called, but I wouldn’t call it so because war means outright hostilities. But as you know, we announced it and we maintain it that we’re only targeting military facilities in Ukraine. We do not target any civilian infrastructure or cities, as they report.

Q: Can you talk about your relationship with the Secretary-General? We saw you in the General Assembly on Wednesday. You had a very animated discussion. We couldn’t read lips, but we certainly saw the body language. There’s been a lot of criticism, and the UN argues that essentially all he’s doing is defending the UN Charter that says States must settle their disputes through peaceful means, which is not happening here. So that’s one issue. What should the Secretary-General do in this instance? And in addition to that, this notion of the denazification of Ukraine. Ukraine has a Jewish President, so it’s just beggars belief that you are talking about Nazis in removing Nazis in Ukraine when the President himself is a Jew.

A: There was criticism on our part of the Secretary-General for the position he took on the crisis. I do not recall, as I said to him directly and out loud that he took similar positions in similar cases. And there were many – take Syria or other examples. There were many where his position was much more subdued. However, there was no body language. Rest assured that it was criticism within the diplomatic protocol, which I think I didn’t overstep.

On the fact that Zelensky has Jewish heritage. It doesn’t matter because real power in Ukraine, real political weight belongs to the radicals and neo-Nazis who defy the President, who have their own agenda, who ruled the ball in Ukraine. President Zelensky came with a landslide victory of 74% of the population, promising to end the war as the first thing on the list of his priorities. But then he was slowly backing off this and he finished practically playing into the hands of those radicals and neo-Nazi organizations which claim to represent the patriotic part of the Ukrainian society. He demonstrated that he’s weak, and that in the circumstances that he found himself in he had no political will to resist those radicals who are the main political driving force in today’s Ukraine.

Q: A follow-up on Russia’s calling it an existential threat if Ukraine were to join NATO. Russia is already neighboring NATO countries. So why would Ukraine becoming another NATO country make it more of an existential threat than it already is in your eyes? And secondly, there has been a lot of talk by European leaders about how Russia’s invasion, aggression on Ukraine is going to change the European security architecture, not just today, but for decades to come. I wonder if you could comment on your reaction to that.

A: Yes, we are neighboring NATO countries and that was the result of cheating by our Western partners who, at the time when the Berlin Wall collapsed and Germany reunified, were telling us that they would not move beyond the borders of the former GDR. And our naive leadership at that time, M.Gorbachev and E.Shevarnadze, opted to believe them about it. Now Western partners are imminently denying that there was any of such, I wouldn’t call it even commitments or pledges, any such promises. But documents were revealed that tell us it was the case. The naive Soviet leadership believed in it, and now we are ripening the fruit of this naivete and having NATO countries at our borders.

We know that the NATO infrastructure is moving towards the Russian borders as we speak, that they are conducting exercises right on the border of the Russian Federation. We’ve been offering NATO to come to an agreement to move our troops, even for the exercises, at a certain distance, so that not to provoke each other. We addressed that appeal to NATO a long time ago, but they never reacted. I remember the last conversation between Lavrov and Stoltenberg here in New York at the high-level segment of the General Assembly in 2021. Minister Lavrov repeatedly reminded about that issue. But Secretary-General Stoltenberg was evading the question. He was simply evading the question as NATO did and all the countries did. So the presence of NATO infrastructure around and in close proximity to our borders is a geopolitical threat to us.

That’s why we offered to the US and NATO to engage in a serious dialogue on security guarantees. That offer was made as recently as, I think, October – November last year. We sent our proposals in that regard which included non-expansion of NATO, non-placement of weapons close to our borders, and moving NATO back to where it was in 1997, which would be a fair solution and would bring us to the state of the security architecture which would be beneficial for all the participants. But we received a reply which basically denied all our ideas in that regard. We were told that any country has a right to choose their allies freely, of course, meaning Ukraine. But as we said, they are forgetting about another thing to which they committed at OSCE summits — the indivisibility of security, which means that security of one country cannot be reached at the expense of the security of others. And that was a commitment, not just a paragraph in a joint statement.

Next is your question about Russian invasion changing European security architecture. I think NATO has changed European security architecture already, back after 1997 when it started to expand to the East, contrary to their promises, which unfortunately were not their commitments.

Q: The war is costing more and more civilian lives today. You have bombed Kharkiv and there have been several explosions in Kiev. What are you doing to prevent civilian casualties during your war on Ukraine?

A: I already said that the reports that are dubbed credible may not be credible at all. We have regular briefings by our Ministry of Defense which maintains that we are not targeting civilian objects in Ukraine, nor the cities as such. So these reports about bombing of Kharkiv or explosions in Kiev should be verified, which we strongly doubt, given the number of fakes that are spreading these days about the issue. If there are any explosions, these are in the suburbs of Kiev and they refer to the military infrastructure that the Russian armed forces are targeting.

Q: We have reporters on ground reporting that there are Russian bombings in Kiev.

A: In Kiev? I don’t have this information. We saw some footages of buildings partly destroyed but it was then said and confirmed by our military that was not our missiles but either a plane of Ukraine or a wrong missile that went into the building. We didn’t bomb residential areas of Kiev.

Q: So you say this is a military operation not a war. When and how do you end this operation and is there a scenario where you would use nuclear weapons?

A: How do we end the operation? I said what President Putin said on it. As soon as we have understanding from the Ukrainian authorities that they are prepared to demilitarize and denazify, if I may use that kind of verb in English, that will be a step towards the end of it.

On the use of nuclear weapons, God forbid it. But President Putin ordered to put our nuclear force on high alert because we saw some disturbing statements from NATO leaders in that regard in relation to Russia. So that is the kind of deterrence that we exercise.

Q: We noticed recently that Kuwait supported the draft resolution condemning Russia. Lebanon condemned Russia, but the UAE abstained on that very draft resolution and the UAE is just taking up the Presidency of the Security Council. What do you expect from UAE and the Arab countries regarding this crisis and is Russia going to respond to the latest step by the US by expelling twelve diplomats? Thank you.

A: We expect that the UAE will uphold the integrity of the office of the SC Presidency and that it will conduct it in a smooth way. We know that the UAE has a strong diplomatic school. We know their staff, and I’m sure that they will do it, hopefully, with flying colors in the present circumstances.

As for the second question. I’m sure that the response will follow because it’s a diplomatic practice which provides for a tit-for-tat. It’s not our choice. We didn’t initiate it and I think that the answer will be given but it’s not for me to decide.

Q: Ambassador, are the visas of diplomats who are being expelled coming to and end? Are their visas running out and they have to leave anyway?

A: We have many diplomats in the Mission who do not have visa extensions. They can stay in the US and continue their job, and they can leave the country, but in this case that’s 100% guaranteed that they will not be able to come back because they will not get their visa extensions. Who of those twelve have valid us visas today and who don’t, I have no idea yet, because I didn’t see the names.

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at the Eleventh Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly

Colleagues,

The Ukrainian issue has recently dominated the information field and taken a central spot on the UNSC and UNGA agenda. Thereby the actions of Russia get twisted and distorted and become surrounded by a huge number of unthinkable fables and fakes, involving mass and social media. That is why today I would like to speak in detail about the reasons that triggered this crisis, and also address its possible consequences.

Let me emphasize that the root cause of this Ukrainian crisis is Ukraine’s acts and its years-long sabotage of direct obligations under the Minsk Package. A very short while ago there still was hope that Kiev would think better and finally implement what it committed to back in 2015. What was needed for that was a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk in the first place. But then Ukraine’s leadership once again confirmed that it was not ready for such dialogue, for steps towards granting a special status (that was enshrined in the Minsk Agreements) to Donbas. Coupled with explicit support for that on the part of Ukraine’s Western patrons, it finally convinced us that we had no right to make the people of Donbas suffer any longer.

Ukrainian provocations against Donbas in February did not stop, but actually intensified, which is why the leadership of DPR and LPR turned to us with a request to grant military support under bilateral agreements on cooperation that had been signed simultaneously with the recognition of Donetsk and Lugansk. The recognition itself was a logical step resulting from the unstopping aggression of the Ukrainian regime.

Ukrainian authorities, whom certain states have been arming and inciting lately, are still under a delusion that with a blessing of Western sponsors, they may secure a military solution to the problem of Donbas. Otherwise, it is hard to explain dramatic intensification of fire and acts of sabotage on the territory of the republics that I mentioned. People of Donetsk and Lugansk still had to hide in basements. Refugees kept flowing to Russia. As for the nature of provocations by Ukraine’s Armed Forces, it has not changed. But our Western colleagues preferred not noticing it and echoing Ukraine’s telltales, according to which the people of Donbas all but bombard themselves.

In general, the West consistently ignores the growing sufferings of the people of Donbas. This topic has been actively discussed in the Security Council and General Assembly for a week by now, but over that time, they have uttered no word of sympathy or compassion for the people of DPR and LPR. It might seem that those 4 million people simply do not exist for our Western colleagues.

So in view of these unabating threats to People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and also due to the lack of prospects for solving the problem of Donbas in the framework of the Minsk Agreements, President of Russia Vladimir Putin made a decision to start a special military operation in Donbas. Occupation of Ukraine is not part of our plans. The goal of this operation is protection of people who have been victimized and exposed to genocide by the Kiev regime for past 8 years. To ensure this, we will seek demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, and criminal prosecution for those who committed numerous heinous crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation.

This decision was made as per Article 51 of the UN Charter and authorized by the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia in pursuance of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with DPR and LPR. Let me also remind that the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, of which violation we are being accused with regard to Ukraine, as stipulated in 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States, must be strictly observed with regard to states that are “conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory without distinction as to race, creed or colour.” The current government of Ukraine is not like this.

Besides, during this special operation Russia exercises its right to self-defense from a regime that sought to recover access to nuclear weapons. President of Ukraine openly stated this on 18 February at the Munich Conference. I remind that these words of his were welcomed with applause. At the same time, Ukraine pursues NATO membership (with its Chapter 5) and has territorial claims to Russia. So by activating Article 51 of the UN Charter, Russia not only protects itself against a nationalist threat, but also recovers validity of the goals and principles of the UN Charter on the territory of Donbas and Ukraine, and provides for full implementation of the main task of the United Nations – prevention of a new world war.

Unfortunately, we have to note the negative role that our Western colleagues under the lead of the United States played in this story. Instead of making Kiev implement its obligations, they openly incited Ukraine, repeating their absolutely void mantra that allegedly it was Russia that did not comply with the Minsk Agreements – even though, as we repeatedly said, Russia was never a side to them. Besides, our Western colleagues shamelessly pumped Ukraine with arms and sent there instructors. In fact, they have been encouraging Ukraine that pulled 120,000 troops to the contact line, to embark on armed provocations against Donbas.

Colleagues,

When discussing this topic, we must be mindful of a broader context that triggered the current crisis in Ukraine. Back in 2008, at Russia-NATO summit in Bucharest, President Putin warned that NATO states should think thrice before making a boastful record that Ukraine and Georgia “would be in NATO”. But they presented it as a huge compromise that France and Germany could achieve replacing the US proposal to extend a membership action plan to Ukraine and Georgia right away.

Then, inspired by NATO, Georgian President Saakashvili embarked on his venture in 2008, and Russia was blamed for it despite all facts. Finally, in 2014 there was a deadly and unconstitutional coup in Kiev. As a result, nationalists and radicals came to power and adopted a course towards transforming Ukraine in an “anti-Russia” and making it a NATO member. I will get back to it later.

For us, Ukraine’s accession to NATO is a “red line”, first of all due to military and strategic considerations. Placement of NATO infrastructure on Ukrainian soil would make us retaliate which would inevitably put Russia and NATO on the verge of conflict. That is why in December 2021 we reached out to the US and NATO offering to make agreements that should give Russia some security guarantees. We extended our hand, but the US and NATO haughtily rejected us. We were offered to discuss important, yet secondary issues that did not lift our concerns. Besides, they refused to answer our question how freedom of alliance that is declared in OSCE documents reconciled with the principle of indivisible security.

Colleagues,

I think many of you are wondering what to do now and what role the United Nations can play in settling the Ukrainian crisis. We are convinced that the UN can and must play a role to help bring closer the positions of various stakeholders and eliminate reasons for confrontation. According to the UN Charter, the role of the Security Council is critical in this regard. However our partners make no attempt to discuss this matter in a composed manner. That is why we voted against the anti-Russian and anti-Ukrainian draft resolution that was put forward to the Security Council on 25 February. I think I need not to explain why the draft was anti-Russian – suffice it to briefly look at it. But why anti-Ukrainian? Because this document, without any doubt, contradicts the fundamental interests of the Ukrainian people, as it seeks to protect and secure in Ukraine the system of power that brought the country to this tragedy that has lasted for at least 8 years by now.

The main reason why we voted “no” was not what the draft resolution said, but rather what it did not say. If only its sponsors had at least tried to make it vaguely resemble a well-balanced document, they would not have left behind issues that must not be forgotten in the context of Ukraine’s problem.

In particular, they left behind the story how the Maidan junta that rose to power after the unconstitutional coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014 waged war on the people of eastern Ukraine, firing at residential quarters from guns and multiple rocket launchers and air-dropping bombs on Donetsk and Lugansk. They left behind how Ukrainian authorities, with connivance of their Western sponsors, cynically and consistently evaded implementing the Minsk Agreements, which envisaged as a core element direct dialogue with the people of Donbas. At the same time, Ukrainian punitive squads deployed on the contact line – representing radical and neo-Nazi battalions in the first place – systematically and on a daily basis bombarded residential areas of the DPR and LPR, killing women, children, elderly people. This is still happening today.

How can we not mention ghastly crimes committed by Ukrainian Nazis in the course of past 8 years? Or the people who protested against Maidan and were burnt alive in Odessa? Or shooting up of peaceful protesters on Maidan square by unidentified snipers? The Maidan regime deliberately wore out investigations of both those tragedies. In the meantime, those who are guilty of the Odessa tragedy are well known and do not seem to be hiding. Alternative investigations and confessions of the snipers themselves unequivocally confirm that the onslaught on the Square of Independence resulted from a provocation by the leaders of Maidan. Last year we hosted informal Security Council meetings under a Formula Arria format to discuss both those episodes and give our colleagues in the Council more information on that matter. But in response, we at best heard some clichés about “Russian propaganda”. How can there be a resolution on Ukraine that does not mention what I just referred to?

Also, it would be good to include in this draft resolution a fair assessment of the role that our Western colleagues played in fueling the Ukrainian crisis. They not only stood behind the Maidan coup, but in fact gave carte blanche to Kiev for any acts and steps that are unthinkable to any civilized state. Those acts include flagrant discrimination of the Russian language and therefore Russian-speaking people; glorification of Hitler’s accomplices coupled with a ban on paying tribute to the real heroes of Ukraine who liberated it from Nazism; and also arranging a religious schism in Ukraine. While telling tales about a triumph of democracy in Ukraine, the Maidan authorities and nationalists killed political opponents with impunity, persecuted the opposition, shut down opposition TV channels where one could get relatively objective information. Six such channels were shut down during President Zelensky’s tenure. Or can we forget how you pumped up Ukraine with weapons that later were used to kill civilians in Donbas? It is not only the current Ukrainian leadership, but also our Western colleagues who are responsible for what is happening now.

Colleagues,

Let me draw your attention to the fact that a “bubble” of lies, fakes, and misinformation is being created around the Russian special military operation. In particular, it is the houses in Donbas that were destroyed by nationalists and Ukraine’s armed forces that Western media most often brazenly present as consequences of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

We constantly hear lies and fakes about indiscriminate bombardments of Ukrainian cities, hospitals, schools and kindergartens.

Russian military pose no threat to Ukraine’s peaceful citizens, they do not fire at peaceful facilities. Cities that are controlled by Russian Armed Forces live normally: critical infrastructure and transit keep working, public order is maintained by joint efforts with local administrations. Same can be said about the Chernobyl NPP, where joint patrols of Russian Armed Forces and special units of Ukrainian police are taking place.

What does pose a threat to the people of Ukraine is Ukrainian nationalists who in fact hold them as hostages and use as a human shield. There is numerous evidence, disseminated by ordinary Ukrainians, proving that nationalists, despite people’s protests, deploy heavy equipment and multiple rocket launchers in residential quarters. This is a blatant violation of the international humanitarian law that must be duly condemned. Basically, it is the same tactics as that of ISIL terrorists. All responsibility for possible consequences rests with the Maidan regime.

Another thing that threatens the people of Ukraine is uncontrolled distribution of weapons by radicals and the authorities to all those who are ready to have them, including criminals that have been released from prisons. Those guns already shoot in the hands of burglars and plunderers. Numerous proofs of that can be easily found on social media. Those are posted by the dwellers of Kiev and other cities. This demonstrates the irresponsible approach of the Ukrainian authorities to its citizens.

We have just received a letter from Ukrainian rights advocate – public organization “Institute of legal policy and social protection named after Irina Berezhnaya”. For past 8 years, the Institute has been raising awareness of international mechanisms about the genesis and the making of nationalism in Ukraine, and the way it was and is supported at the state level.

Here is a brief quote from the letter: “Today is the apotheosis of neo-Nazi outrage in Ukraine! On orders of the authorities, convicts were released from prisons. Those are people who committed felonies: murders, violent crimes, etc.” In Kiev alone 25,000 assault rifles were given without any document check to anyone who wanted to have arms. It started a surge of murders, burglaries, plundering. Representatives of so-called territorial defense of Kiev yesterday cynically shot up a car of Anton Kudrin and his family. The parents and one of their daughters died on the scene, two more children are in a hospital in a critical condition. Mr.O.Turchynov, who was Ukraine’s Acting President after the unconstitutional takeover in February 2014, called all unindifferent citizens to kill Russians throughout the entire territory of the country.

Notwithstanding that the recent census in Ukraine that was held in 2019, reported that 17 % of the population were Russians. In reality this rate is much higher.

Today we witness an information war on Russia in social media. Since there are no proofs that Russian military destroy civilian infrastructure, Ukrainian strikes and occasional hits are presented as such, as well as photo and video footage from Donbas that again depict crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists. Besides, in social media one can easily find tutorials that teach how to shoot fakes that should defile our special operation. All in all, there are 1.2 million such fakes in Ukrainian social media. What the Ukrainian Ambassador cited today, I mean communication of a mother with her soldier-son, was also born on social media. This is known for sure.

Yesterday we did not support a draft decision that suggested bringing this issue to today’s UNGA session. We did so, because such move basically made us attest that the Council was not able to uphold its main responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. There was no faintest hint of an attempt to try and find a constructive solution within the Council.

An attempt to disregard the position of Russia and ignore it contradicts the very basics of the UN Charter. What we need is not push forward such schemes, but try and find points of contact, no matter how hard our Western partners try to evade this, for example when ignoring our legitimate concerns with regard to NATO’s policy and actions of Western states who violated basic OSCE principles about the indivisibility of security.

Mr.President,

In conclusion, let me say that it was not Russia that started armed action. Hostilities were initiated by Ukraine – against the people of Donbas and all those who disagreed with the military authorities. Russia is bringing this war to an end.

Thank you.

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine

We welcome Secretary-General of the United Nations to this meeting. We listened carefully to the briefings by Martin Griffiths and Filippo Grandi.

Without any doubt, all of us are very concerned over the situation in Ukraine. We see the suffering of ordinary people who in fact are hostages of Ukrainian radicals and nationalists who desperately cling to power. Why do I say so? Because when it comes to areas that passed into the control of the Russian Armed Forces, the population there does not encounter any acute humanitarian problems. Once the radicals left, local authorities started to function routinely, providing all the necessary services to the population. Life-supporting infrastructure keeps functioning. Serious problems can only be seen in cities where the authorities made a criminal and irresponsible order to give arms to anyone willing to take them, including criminals who had been released from prisons for that purpose. Hence – mass robberies, murders, plundering. Plentiful information about it is available on social media. One can also find addresses by heads of some local administrations to Ukrainian authorities begging to stop this madness. There are numerous cases when victims of such armed plunderers and bandits are said to be victims who allegedly died at the hands of some Russian subversive groups.

I now address the people of Kiev whom radicals hold in the city as a human shield. Russian Defense Ministry confirms that civilians can unimpededly leave Kiev via “Kiev-Vasilkov” highway. This is an open and safe corridor.

We repeat again that Russia’s special military operation does not seek to occupy Ukraine or inflict damage on the local population. Demilitarization of Ukraine which is packed with NATO weapons is aimed at protecting the long-suffering people of Donbas and Ukraine. The Russian special operation does not impact critical civil infrastructure. Over the five days of this operation, there have been no recorded cases of deliberate devastation. By the same token, there is no evidence of civilians dying through the fault of Russian military. We are constantly told the opposite though, with a reference to some credible reports. Now the information space is swarming with fakes that try to make us responsible for what Ukraine is doing itself. This flow of blatant lies, replicated by Western media, unfortunately has become a dangerous sign of our time. At this UNSC meeting, we again heard allegations about bombardments of residential quarters, hospitals, schools, and kindergartens. What is known for sure though is the fact that Ukrainian nationalists deploy assault weapons in residential areas, which constitutes a direct violation of the international humanitarian law. We would ask Martin Griffiths and Filippo Grandi to comment on that.

Everyone is well aware that starting from 2014, Russia and Russia alone has supported the peaceful population of Donbas, that was confronted with unstopping bombardments of the Ukrainian army and a total blockade imposed by Kiev. We have held several UNSC meetings where we shared our approaches. I will not be repetitive. Let me only say that we regret that even today, when we discuss the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, no one of our Western colleagues uttered a word about the people of Donbas, whose sufferings that have lasted for 8 years, you chose to ignore.

An important support measure for the population of Donbas was the 2019 decree of President of Russia Vadimir Putin “On determining for humanitarian purposes categories of individuals who may apply for the citizenship of the Russian Federation via a simplified procedure”. In a situation when the criminal Kiev authorities made the people of southeastern Ukraine actually struggle for survival, Russian citizenship allowed them to receive social benefits, pensions, salaries, as well as education and healthcare services.

Apart from that, there are 110,000 refugees from the DPR and LPR in Russia at the moment. They had to leave their places of residence after a week ago Kiev made another attempt to solve the problem of Donbas by military means, in violation of the Minsk Package. Our Western partners also can be blamed for this, because they openly indulged Kiev when it defied the Minsk Agreements, and pumped it up with weapons.

By our estimates, since the beginning of conflict in 2014, approximately 3 million Ukrainians have moved to Russia.

In conclusion, let me stress that Russia did not start a war, but tries to put an end to it. This war began back in 2014, but you have tried to ignore it throughout all those years.

It was strange to hear the representative of France say that European sanctions against Russia do not violate provisions of the international humanitarian law and the interests of Russia’s ordinary people. We have heard such hypocritical claims before, in the context of other country situations.

As for the draft humanitarian resolution on Ukraine proposed by France, we need to study the text closely before we can make any assessments. In any case, I ask you to proceed from the assumption that Russian military will provide any necessary humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine on the territories that have been liberated from radicals.

Thank you.

Right of reply:

I was surprised at some comments by the briefers. Some reports, footage and messages about the developments in Ukraine are taken for granted, whilst others, though obvious and undoubtedly true, are considered unconfirmed and unverified. We will share some videos with you and will expect the UN leadership to comment on how such acts by Ukrainian radicals should be perceived.