The United Nations Security Council is due to discuss the crisis along the Russia-Ukraine border Monday in a session the United States called to address Russia’s deployment of more than 100,000 soldiers in the region and “other destabilizing acts aimed at Ukraine.”
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on ABC’s “This Week” show Sunday that the council will press Russia to justify its massing of troops.
“Our voices are unified in calling for the Russians to explain themselves,” she said.
Russia has dismissed the U.S. move, with its Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy calling the session a public relations “stunt.”
Russia is one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and can use its veto power to block any punitive action by the council against Russia.
Monday’s meeting is the latest round of talks about the conflict amid efforts to find a diplomatic resolution. The United States has threatened to impose sharp economic sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine, and has ruled out Russian demands that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization withdraw troops from eastern Europe and prevent Ukraine from joining the alliance.
Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, says it has no plans to invade Ukraine again. But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sunday that Russia will ask NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to clarify whether they intend to implement key security commitments.
“We are sending an official request to our colleagues in (NATO) and the OSCE, urging them to explain how they intend to implement (their) commitment not to strengthen their security at the expense of the security of others,” Lavrov said on state television.
NATO has ramped up its military presence in member countries bordering Russia, but NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that NATO has no intention of sending troops to Ukraine if Russia invades the former Soviet republic.
“We have no plans to deploy NATO combat troops to Ukraine…we are focusing on providing support,” Stoltenberg told the BBC. “There is a difference between being a NATO member and being a strong and highly valued partner as Ukraine.”
In the United States, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the “Fox News Sunday” show that a Russian invasion “could happen, really, at any time.” Kirby said Russian President Vladimir Putin “continues to add troops” just across the border from Ukraine.
Kirby rejected imposing sanctions ahead of a possible Russian invasion or naming which Russian financial institutions the West would target.
“Once you try that,” Kirby said, “the deterrent effect is gone.”
Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” show that Ukraine wants sanctions imposed now against Russia, as well if Moscow invades.
“We ask both,” Markarova said. “Russia is there. Russia illegally occupied Crimea. Russia illegally occupies together with their controlled people, parts of Donetsk and Luhansk territories, and they didn’t change their behavior during the eight years. So yes, we believe the basis for sanctions is there.”
“The reason why Putin attacked us (in taking Crimea) is not because he wants Ukraine, or only Ukraine,” Markarova said. “The reason he attacked us is because we have chosen to be a democracy and we have the Euro-Atlantic and European aspirations.”
Two key lawmakers on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic chairman Robert Menendez and top Republican James Risch, told CNN’s “State of the Union” show that they are close to reaching a bipartisan agreement on sanctions they said would “crush” Russia’s economy if it attacks Ukraine.
Several countries, including the U.S., have shipped weapons to the Kyiv government to help it defend itself.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to visit the region this week and plans to speak to Putin by phone.
Johnson is considering doubling British troops in the Baltic countries and sending defensive weapons to Estonia, his office said.
Some information for this report came from Reuters.