Remarks to the Press by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia following the UNSC meeting on threats to international peace and security (Ukraine)
Vassily Nebenzia: I don't have much to add to what I have said [at UNSC meeting on Ukraine]. I think everything has been absolutely clear. We still are puzzled why we had this meeting today, what accusations were leveled at us and what escalation we do. I don't know why we had this meeting today at all. Was it because of some fantasies that Russia, as my American colleagues said, has already made aggression against Ukraine (as if it had already happened)?
Q: You were very clear in the Council that Russia's troops are on its own territory and that there's no proof that Russia is planning any aggression. If your talks on European security, which you've been carrying out with the Americans, go badly, are there any circumstances in which Russian troops would cross the border into Ukraine? Can you rule that out for me?
A: In what context do you link our talks on European and global security and so-called alleged invasion in Ukraine? Like if these talks collapsed, then we would suddenly move troops to Ukraine?
Q: Can you rule that out for us?
A: As to who is ruling this out, I cited it when I started the meeting. The Secretary of the Council of National Security of Ukraine, Minister of Defense, President Zelensky himself said that the rhetoric about what is happening was scaling up and it was not justified.
Q: There are no circumstances in which Russian troops would cross the border into Ukraine, are there?
A: I'm not the person to decide whatever happens. But as I said in my statement, no Russian politician or even a public figure ever said that we were planning to attack Ukraine.
The other thing is that we remember what happened, say, in Georgia in 2008, when former President Saakashvili gave a criminal order to strike Tskhinval with missiles. Then he moved his troops there. Our peacekeepers died, civilians died, and we had to react. The International Court of Justice confirmed that it was Georgian aggression. But still today, in the public opinion, they say it was Russia that invaded Georgia.
What will happen this time? I don't know. But we do not exclude provocations from the Ukrainian side. The separatist republics say they have information that such provocations may happen.
You remember what happened in 2014, when we had Minsk-1, when Ukrainian forces started moving towards the republics, and then they lost big, which was a result of Minsk-2 in fact.
So we advise and we warn that violation of the Minsk Agreements and attempts to solve the conflict by military means are totally unacceptable. By the way, many of the Security Council members proved this today.
Q: You said during the meeting that the US has no proof to back up their claim that there are 100,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. So how many troops are there?
A: I don't know. We never announced any figure. Where these 100,000 troops came from I have no idea.
Q: In case of a provocation from Kiev against the Eastern Ukrainian republics, do you foresee that some Western countries may accuse Russia of invasion? In that case?
A: Well, I am concerned that might be a scenario. Even talking about an imminent war, if they are calling it to happen, is a provocation in itself. And that we have to avoid.
Q:But there might be 100,000 troops. Isn’t it so?
A: I have no idea.
Q: Are there exercises?
A: We have regular exercises with Belarus. We have regular exercises in our territory. We are not saying that a sovereign country cannot move around its own territory. We are not saying this but we are told that we should move our troops where they belong, so to say.
What I must tell you is that first of all the Russian troops are not at the Russian-Ukrainian border. They are stationed in their garrisons where they used to be before. We had the same situation in April this year and nobody made a fuss about it. But suddenly it became an escalation. There is no critical build-up compared to what used to happen in the previous years.
Q: The Permanent Representative of the United States did not mention the Minsk Agreements. Can you please tell us more about it? What do you want the United States to do?
A: To encourage Ukraine to implement the Minsk Agreements which they sabotage all the time.
Q: You described this meeting as provocation.
A: It is a provocation.
Q: Does this affect the talks with NATO?
A: Despite how they try to present it, there is no direct link between Russia’s talks with NATO and US, and Ukrainian settlement. It is not us but them who are linking the two.