An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council happened even earlier than it was scheduled. It was initially set to start at 13:00 EDT on Thursday, but the meeting actually began at 10:30, two and a half hours earlier than expected.
The Security Council, convened at Ukraine’s initiative, met behind closed doors. The subject of discussion was the recent statements by the Kremlin’s leader, Vladimir Putin, and Russia’s threats to withdraw from the Normandy format of talks on Donbas settlement. Moscow has accused Ukraine of terrorism and called on the European Union and the United States to “influence Kyiv”.
We can’t know exactly what the Kremlin expected to achieve but the reaction to such appeals was quite predictable – nobody believed Russia.
"I asked the Russian counterpart about the evidence that would confirm the Ukrainian involvement in the events in Crimea. They do not exist. There are only unsupported allegations...” Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Volodymyr Yelchenko commented on the speech of Russia’s envoy Vitaly Churkin.
In fact, it’s not the information about the alleged terrorist attacks that alarmed the UN Security Council as much as the sound bites by Vladimir Putin. As the Russian president said that there was no sense in holding the planned meeting in Normandy format, this was an unpleasant surprise to the world leaders, because it became clear that Moscow may seek an excuse to completely withdraw from the Minsk process.
This became clear from the statements made at a closed session by the members of the Security Council.
Russia’s allegations are ridiculous, said my source at a UK Mission to the UN
Since Volodymyr Yelchenko was the only one to speak at a briefing after the consultations behind closed doors, I had to put a bit of an effort to learn more about the attitudes in the sidelines of the Security Council. Ambassadors and staff of foreign missions were reluctant to speak on camera but, but they were willing to share their opinions “off the record”.
"Russia’s allegations are ridiculous,” said my source from the UK Mission. “He [the Russian envoy] read a couple of drafted lines and he wants the Security Council to take note of tall seriousness of his accusations. It's absurd!"
This opinion is shared by the U.S. Mission to the UN. "We are used to the absurd accusations by Russia and we have long learned to turn a blind eye to them. Moreover, as always, there was no hard evidence presented by Russia to the Security Council. It’s more important, what exactly Russia wants to achieve through such manipulation," a representative of the U.S. Mission has told me.
In addition, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN David Pressman has warned the Russian delegation that if, following the tough statements by Putin, Moscow resorts to any aggressive steps, they will see an adequate response.
A friend of mine from the Mission of China, being aware that I am a journalist, was cautious in his comment on the situation: "We respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine within the borders set in 1991. Therefore, we do not accept the wording "terrorist attack on Russian territory."
In fact, all members of the Security Council, except for one country, of course, have stressed the inviolability of borders and showed their respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine. "We are very thankful to the members of the Security Council, who, without any question, confirmed their strong positions on the respect for the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine, including Crimea, and we are very satisfied with that… Well, except for the one country, of course," said Volodymyr Yelchenko at his briefing following the meeting.
But the final point in my little survey was provided by the official from the Spanish Mission, who said: "Andriy, there have already been several cases when Russian saboteurs were caught in eastern Ukraine, which is confirmed by our observers [OSCE]. After that, has Ukraine ever said that there was “no sense” in continuing the talks in Normandy format?"
Ukraine’s Mission to the United Nations hopes that Vitaly Churkin will properly deliver to Moscow the signals he got at the Security Council.
Andriy Vasyliev, New York