Russia’s Ambassador to the US Reveals Why the War in Ukraine Started and How It May End


A month and a half into Russia’s war in Ukraine, Moscow’s envoy to Washington explained to Newsweek his country’s reasoning for launching what it considered a “special military operation” against its neighbour, and detailed the demands which, if met, could end the conflict involving Europe’s two largest countries .

And while Kyiv (spelled Kyiv by Russia) accused the Kremlin of committing “war crimes” including “genocide”, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov maintained that he was about the alleged ethnic cleansing of Ukraine, as well as its attempt to join. the US-led Western military alliance of NATO, which fueled the war.

“The special operation in Ukraine is the result of the kyiv regime’s reluctance to stop the genocide of Russians by fulfilling its obligations under international commitments,” Antonov said. Newsweek. “The willingness of NATO member states to use the territory of a neighboring state to gain a foothold in the fight against Russia is also evident.

The top Russian diplomat said the events of February 24 had their roots eight years earlier, when the uprising known to his supporters as Euromaidan toppled a Ukrainian government with close ties to Moscow and brought to power a pro-Moscow administration. western seeking to get closer to NATO and the European Union.

To Russia, Antonov said the revolution was a “bloody coup initiated by the West” in which “ultranationalist ideas came to power in Kyiv”. He said policies seen by Moscow as hostile, such as the removal of Russian as the national language and the rehabilitation of Ukrainian nationalist figures such as Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II, had “took root in Ukraine under external administration”. .”

As unrest first gripped Ukraine in 2014, Russian forces quickly seized Crimea with the stated aim of protecting the ethnic Russian majority on the Black Sea peninsula, and at that time , pro-Moscow separatists took up arms, proclaiming the separation of Donetsk and Luhansk (spelled Lugansk by Russia) People’s Republics of the eastern region of Donbass (spelled Donbass by Russia).

Tensions have escalated into fierce fighting between kyiv and the rebels, killing up to 14,000 people, including civilian casualties that both sides blame the other for inflicting. Two ceasefire attempts known as the Minsk Accords were reached, but bloodshed continued amid accusations of dueling violations.

Antonov argued that it was “the nationalist frenzy and revengeful feelings of the kyiv regime” that led to the effective death of the Minsk Accords as Ukraine chose “the path of rapid militarization” with the help of the stranger.

“NATO member countries have started a military exploration of Ukraine,” Antonov said. “It was awash with Western weapons as President Vladimir Zelensky announced kyiv’s plans to acquire nuclear weapons that would threaten not only neighboring countries but the entire world.”

While Ukrainian officials have repeatedly denied any plans to develop nuclear weapons, and the United Nations atomic agency has also dismissed the argument, President Zelensky (who spells his first name Volodymyr) has questioned the status non-nuclear project from kyiv during a speech delivered at the Munich Security Conference a few days before the Russian incursion.

By this point, Russia had amassed nearly 200,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, including in neighboring Belarus and Crimea. Antonov, however, argued that it was Ukraine that mustered its forces for an attack on the rebel states of Donbass, which Kyiv denied.

“In this context, Russia had no choice but to recognize the independence of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk,” Antonov said. “So, in accordance with Chapter VII, Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, with the authorization of the Russian Federation Council and in execution of the treaties of friendship and mutual assistance with the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Republic People’s Republic of Lugansk, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin made the decision to launch a special military operation.”

“Its goal is to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine in order to reduce military threats posed by Western states trying to use the brotherly Ukrainian people in the fight against the Russians,” he added.

An aerial view taken on Friday shows diggers working in the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Borodyanka, northwest of kyiv. Ukraine has accused Russia of killing civilians, some style of execution, though Moscow has dismissed the claims, arguing far-right forces hijacked Ukraine’s military, staging their own atrocities .
RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

The purpose of the operation, Antonov said, “is to put an end to the genocide perpetrated by the kyiv regime and to ensure a denuclearized and neutral status of Ukraine”.

At a time when Ukraine and a growing number of its foreign partners, including US President Joe Biden, were calling on Russian forces, including Putin, to be tried for war, Antonov said Moscow, to achieve its goals, “necessitates ending the hostilities that have been going on since 2014 as well as bringing to justice those who have committed a large number of bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation.”

And he dispelled speculation about a plan to exert control over Ukraine in the long term, saying “the occupation of Ukraine is not the purpose of the special operation”.

He also dismissed Ukrainian claims that the Russians were responsible for targeting civilians, such as in Bucha, where hundreds of civilians were found massacred, some executed, days after Russia withdrew from the town. . Antonov had already said Newsweek that grisly scenes of massacres were carried out by Ukrainian forces who entered Bucha shortly before news of the massacres emerged in the international media.

“The Russian Federation is taking the necessary measures to preserve the lives and safety of civilians,” Antonov said. “We are doing everything to maintain the normal functioning of critical infrastructure, to ensure public order and the safety of people. Strikes are carried out only on military targets and exclusively with high-precision weapons.”

These strikes were claimed by the Russian Ministry of Defense on Friday as having “destroyed weapons and military equipment arriving in the Donbass in Pokrovsk, Slavyanskk and Barvenkovo”. Russia has since denied a missile strike on the Kramatorsk station, blaming it instead on Ukrainian forces, who counted up to 50 dead in what they say was one of their enemies’ deadliest attacks on civilians to this day.

Washington backed kyiv’s assessment of the incident as the Biden administration and its European allies pledged to send more military assistance to Ukraine. Antonov warned that such aid only escalates the conflict and could potentially lead to a direct conflict between the United States and Russia.

“Western states are directly implicated in current events as they continue to pump Ukraine with arms and ammunition, thus inciting further bloodshed,” Antonov said.

“We warn that such actions are dangerous and provocative as they are directed against our state,” he added. “They can lead the United States and the Russian Federation down the path of direct military confrontation. Any supply of weapons and military equipment from the West, carried out by transport convoys through Ukrainian territory, is a legitimate military target for our armed forces.”

Antonov also reiterated Russian accusations that the Pentagon had engaged in potentially illicit bio-research activities in Ukraine, the result of a 2005 deal that laid the groundwork for joint bio-research. He asked, “What does the Pentagon have to do with health issues?” Why are biological laboratories established along Russian borders, thousands of miles from American territory?

Last month, a State Department spokesperson confirmed Newsweek the presence of “Ukrainian diagnostic and biodefense laboratories”, but stressed that these “are not biological weapons facilities” and “counter biological threats throughout the country”.

Conflicting narratives have been a central tenet of the war in Ukraine, as both sides sought to dominate the information space with their respective claims.

But while Antonov accused the West of “demonizing our country”, he asserted that “our country’s policy is based on the right of all people living today on Ukrainian territory to choose their own future”.

“Together, we must get rid of the nationalists who have seized power in Kyiv as soon as possible, turn this tragic page and move forward to build mutually respectful and equal relations,” he added.

Russia, special, military, operation, Z, symbol, Ukraine
A Russian soldier paints the “Z” that has become the symbol of the country’s “special military operation” in Ukraine on military vehicles in this image taken from images released in March by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Russian Ministry of Defense

In an effort to end the conflict, representatives from Kyiv and Moscow engaged in several rounds of negotiations, the first of which took place in Belarus just days after the start of the war and the last of which took place in Turkey.

Antonov explained what Russia expects from these talks.

“Our principled position regarding the settlement of the conflict has been clearly defined,” Antonov said, “including the demand for unconditional consideration of Russia’s security interests, demilitarization and denazification of the state Ukrainian, guaranteeing its neutral and non-nuclear status as well as the recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea and the independence of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.”

Zelensky and his administration have expressed their openness to ending Ukraine’s aspirations to NATO and formally renouncing any nuclear project. But territorial concessions have proven a more divisive issue as the Ukrainian government still considers Crimea and the entire Donbass region to be part of the country’s territory, a position supported by the international community.

Nonetheless, Antonov said Moscow was seeking to end the conflict as soon as possible.

He said Newsweek that “Russia is doing everything possible to negotiate a way towards the rapid end of the confrontation, the restoration of peace in the Donbass and the return of all peoples of Ukraine to a peaceful life”.


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