On Ukraine, Russia repeats insistence that it had no choice

Russian troops moving along Ukrainian border. [File]
Russian troops moving along Ukrainian border. [File] Screengrab

United Nations: Russia made its case to the world Saturday for its war in Ukraine, repeating a series of grievances about its neighbor and the West to tell the U.N. General Assembly meeting of leaders that Moscow had no choice but to take military action.

After days of denunciations of Russia at the prominent diplomatic gathering, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to shift the focus to Washington. His speech centered on a claim that the United States and its allies not Russia, as the West maintains are aggressively undermining the international system that the U.N. represents.

Invoking history ranging from the U.S. war in Iraq in the early 2000s to the 20th-century Cold War to a 19th-century U.S. policy that essentially proclaimed American influence over the Western Hemisphere, Lavrov portrayed the U.S. as a bully that tries to afford itself the sacred right to act with impunity wherever and wherever they want and can't accept a world where others also advance their national interests. The United States and allies want to stop the march of history, he maintained.

The US and Ukraine didn't retort at the assembly on Saturday but can still offer formal responses later in the meeting. Both countries' presidents have already given their own speeches describing Russia as a dangerous aggressor that must be stopped.

Lavrov, for his part, accused the West of aiming to destroy and fracture Russia" in order to remove from the global map a geopolitical entity that has become all too independent.

The Ukraine war has largely dominated the discussion at the assembly's big annual meeting, and many countries have laid into Russia for its Feb. 24 invasion denouncing its nuclear threats, alleging it has committed atrocities and war crimes, and lambasting its decision to mobilize call up some of its reserves even as the assembly met.

Neither partial mobilization, nuclear saber-rattling, nor any other escalation will deter us from supporting Ukraine, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde declared Saturday. Russia does have some friends in the sprawling chamber, and one Belarus offered a full-throated defense Saturday of its big neighbor. Echoing Russia's talking points, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said it was precisely the West that made this conflict inevitable in Ukraine.

The speeches came amid voting in Russian-occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine on whether to join Russia. Moscow characterizes the referendums as self-determination, but Kyiv and its Western allies view them as Kremlin-orchestrated shams with a foregone conclusion.

Some observers think the expected outcome could serve as a pretext for Russian President Vladimir Putin eventually to escalate the war further.

We can expect President Putin will claim any Ukrainian effort to liberate this land as an attack on so-called Russian territory,'" U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.

Lavrov dismissed the complaints as the West throwing a fit about people making a choice on where they feel they belong. Russia has offered a number of explanations for what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine. Lavrov recapped a couple: risks to Russia from what it considers a hostile government in Kyiv and a NATO alliance that has expanded eastward over the years and relieving Russians living in Ukraine especially its eastern region of the Donbas of what Moscow views as the Ukrainian government's oppression.

The incapacity of Western countries to negotiate and the continued war by the Kyiv regime against their own people left us with no choice but to recognize the two regions that make up the Donbas as independent and then to send troops in, Lavrov said. (AP)

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