UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador said Thursday that Moscow will never invade Ukraine unless it is first provoked by its neighbor or someone else, then cited what he called many threats from Ukraine and provocative actions by U.S. warships in the Black Sea.
Dmitry Polyansky was responding to a question about the buildup of troops along Russia’s frontier with Ukraine, which has led to stepped up U.S. pressure and an assurance Wednesday from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the Ukrainian foreign minister that the American commitment to Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity is “ironclad” and will not change.
Polyansky was asked if Russia planned to invade Ukraine.
“Never planned, never did, and never going to do it unless we’re provoked by Ukraine, or by somebody else” and Russia’s national sovereignty is threatened, he replied.
“There are a lot of threats coming from Ukraine,” Polyansky quickly added. “And don’t forget that the American warships around the Black Sea acting very close.”
“So, every day is a very difficult day to avoid direct clash in the Black Sea. We warned our American colleagues that this is a real provocation,” he told reporters at U.N. headquarters.
Blinken said the U.S. did not know Russia’s intentions but said Moscow’s “playbook” has been in the past to invent provocations along its border to justify military intervention.
“We don’t have clarity into Moscow’s intentions, but we do know its playbook,” he said. “If there are any provocations that we’re seeing, they’re coming from Russia,” and any Russian escalation along the border would be viewed with “grave concern.”
Russia has cast its weight behind a separatist insurgency in Ukraine’s east that erupted shortly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and has caused more than 14,000 deaths. Russia has repeatedly denied any presence of its troops in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said last week that about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed not far from the border and in rebel-controlled areas in Ukraine’s east. It said specifically that units of the Russian 41st Army have remained in Yelnya, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of the Ukrainian border.
“We have the right to concentrate our troops wherever we want,” Polyansky said. “This is not Ukrainian territory. This is Russian territory”
“But if you read the threats that are being pronounced in Ukraine against Russia, against Russian territorial integrity, then you will understand that a certain precaution is a logical step in such a situation,” he said.