The US ambassador to the United Nations has said there should no longer be any doubt that Russia intends to dismantle Ukraine “and dissolve it from the world map entirely”.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council that the United States is seeing growing signs that Russia is laying the groundwork to attempt to annex all of the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, including by installing “illegitimate proxy officials in Russian-held areas, with the goal of holding sham referenda or decree to join Russia”.
Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, “has even stated that this is Russia’s war aim”, she said.
Mr Lavrov told an Arab summit in Cairo on Sunday that Moscow’s overarching goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptable regime”.
Apparently suggesting that Moscow’s war aims extend beyond Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region in the east comprising Donetsk and Luhansk, Mr Lavrov said: “We will certainly help the Ukrainian people to get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-people and anti-historical.”
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, told the Security Council on Friday that “the de-Nazification and demilitarisation of Ukraine will be carried out in full”.
“There must no longer be a threat from this stage to Donbas, nor to Russia, nor to the liberated Ukrainian territories where for the first time in several years people are finally able to feel that they can live the way they want,” he said.
Mr Polyansky also warned Western nations supplying long-range artillery and MLRS surface-to-surface rockets that they are shifting “the provisional security line” further towards the west, “and in so doing clarifying even further the aims and objectives of our special military operation”.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield attacked countries which say “one country’s security should not come at the expense of another’s”, asking what they call Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She did not name any country but it is a view China has repeated frequently, including on Friday by its deputy UN ambassador, Geng Shuang.
He told the council: “Putting one’s own security above that of others, attempting to strengthen military blocs, establishing absolute superiority … will only lead to conflict and confrontation, divide the international community and make themselves less secure.”
The US ambassador also condemned nations which call for all countries to embrace diplomacy without naming Russia, saying: “Let us be clear: Russia’s ongoing actions are the obstacle to a resolution to this crisis.” Again she named no countries but a significant number of nations in Africa, Asia and the Mideast take this approach.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield cited evidence of mounting atrocities, including the reported bombings of schools and hospitals, “the killing of aid workers and journalists, the targeting of civilians attempting to flee, the brutal execution-style murder of those going about their daily business in Bucha”, the suburb of Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, where local authorities said hundreds of people were killed during its occupation by Russian forces.
She said there is evidence that Russian forces “have interrogated, detained forcibly, deported an estimated hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens, including children – tearing them from their homes and sending them to remote regions in the east”.
Nearly two million Ukrainian refugees have been sent to Russia, according to both Ukrainian and Russian officials. Ukraine portrays these journeys as forced transfers to enemy soil, which is considered a war crime. Russia calls them humanitarian evacuations of war victims who already speak Russian and are grateful for a new home.
A recent Associated Press investigation based on dozens of interviews found that, while the situation is more nuanced that the Ukrainians suggest, many refugees are indeed forced to embark on a surreal trip into Russia, subjected along the way to human rights abuses, stripped of documents and left confused and lost about where they are. Those who leave go through a series of what are known as filtration points, where treatment ranges from interrogation and strip searches to being yanked aside and never seen again.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council: “The United States has information that officials from Russia’s presidential administration are overseeing and co-ordinating filtration operations.”
Mr Polyansky countered that, despite Ukraine’s efforts at intimidation of their citizens, “people are choosing the country that they trust” – Russia.
He warned that heavy weapons being poured into Ukraine by the West “will spill over into Europe” because of what he claimed is “the flourishing corruption among Ukraine’s political and military leadership”.
He said Western weapons are only “dragging out the agony and increasing the suffering of the Ukrainian people”.
Addressing Western ambassadors, he said: “The aims of our special military operation will be achieved either way, however much fuel you pour into the fire in the form of weapons.”
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