BY ARUL LOUIS
United Nations, Jan 31 (IANS) India has called for de-escalating the tensions around Ukraine through a diplomatic solution that addresses “legitimate security interests of all” as the US and Russia clashed in the Security Council on Monday.
“India’s interest is in finding a solution that can provide for immediate de-escalation of tensions taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long term peace and stability in the region and beyond,” India’s Permanent Representative T.S. Tirumurti said.
“It is our considered view that the issue can only be resolved through diplomatic dialogue,” he said, adding: “Quiet and constructive diplomacy is the need of the hour.”
The US and Britain, in particular, have warned of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Any steps that increase tension may best be avoided by all sides in the larger interest of securing international peace and security,” Tirumurti said.
Earlier, India abstained on a procedural vote on the Council meeting discussing the threats to peace arising from the situation around Ukraine.
Moscow opposed the proposal made by the US to take up the “international threats to peace” due to what the US said was the build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border.
China joined Russia in voting against the agenda item.
Monday was seen as the last day to have a discussion of the Ukraine issue before Russia takes over the presidency of the Council on Tuesday under the system of monthly rotation of leadership.
Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that he does not expect Russia to invade Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelentsky last week has said that he did not expect an imminent invasion from Russia and criticised talk of the threat.
“We have also been in touch with all concerned parties,” Tirumurti told the Council.
“More than 20,000 Indian students and nationals live and study in different parts of Ukraine, including in its border areas. The well-being of Indian nationals is of priority to us.”
Tirumurti said that India urges “all parties to continue to engage through all diplomatic channels and to keep working towards the full implementation of the ‘Minsk Package'”.
The Minsk Package is a set of agreements reached in 2014 ad 2015 among representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Ukrainian separatists, and the multinational Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe for the de-escalating the situation in Ukraine.
Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France have been engaged in a process of diplomacy to deal with the situation that is known as the Normandy Format.
Tirumurti said: “Flowing from the recently concluded meeting in Paris under the Normandy Format, we also welcome the unconditional observance of the July 2020 ceasefire (in Donbas) and reaffirmation of Minsk Agreements as the basis of work under the ongoing Normandy format.”
UN Under Secretary General Rosemary DiCarlo told the Council: “We remain greatly concerned that, even as these efforts continue, tensions keep escalating amid a dangerous military build-up in the heart of Europe.”
She noted that there are reports of over 100,000 Russian troops and heavy weaponry are positioned along border with Ukraine and troops and weaponry being sent to Belarus ahead of large-scale joint military exercises in February on the borders with Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic nations.
“NATO members are also reportedly planning additional deployments in Eastern European member states, and NATO has advised that 8,500 troops are now on high alert,” she added.
US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned: “We will be decisive, swift, and united should Russia further invade Ukraine.”
But she also said later that the US has no plans to “weaken” Russia.
“Russia’s aggression today not only threatens Ukraine. It also threatens Europe. It threatens the international order this body is charged with upholding,” she said.
Thomas-Greenfield called the Russian deployments the largest mobilisation of troops in Europe in decades and said: “We cannot just ‘wait and see’. It is crucial that this Council address the risk that their aggressive and destabilising behaviour poses across the globe.”
She mentioned the annexation of Crimea by Russia and its backing for Ukrainian separatists.
Russia’s Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia said that Moscow has “categorically been rejecting” plans for an invasion of Ukraine.
There is “no threat of a planned invasion into Ukraine, from the lips of any Russian politician or public figure”, he said.
The troop deployment was in his own country, he said, but the US acts as if an invasion has taken place, he said.
Nebenzia said “that they’re all assuring us is going to take place in just a few weeks’ time if not a few days’ time” and while there is “no proof of confirming such as serious accusation”, it “is not preventing people from whipping up hysteria to such an extent that an actual economic impact is already being felt by our Ukrainian neighbours”.
He cited Washington making the case at the Council in 2003 for its invasion of Iraq, claiming it had weapons of mass destruction, which could not be found after US invasion.
Ukraine’s Permanent Representative Sergiy Kyslytsya said his country “is ready to defend itself”.
He expressed concerns over the troop build-up which he saw as a threat to his country.
He said Kyiv is keeping its lines of diplomacy open but said that Russia should talk and not bring troops to the border.
As for Russia’s assertions that it does not plan to invade Ukraine, he said: “Let’s judge by action, not semantic puzzles.”
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed @arulouis)