Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as independent did not take place “suddenly” and instead was a decision to “to protect and preserve” residents in those regions, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday.
In translated remarks to the United Nations Security Council during an emergency meeting, Vassily Nebenzia referred to the regions as the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR) and the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR).
“It should be remembered that the DPR and the LPR declared their independence from Ukraine back in 2014. But we only recognize them now, despite the high-level of support for doing so both in the republics themselves and in Russian society from the very beginning,” Nebenzia said.
He claimed that at the time, Ukraine was “talking to their own citizens in the east in the language of cannons and shooting and threats and shelling.”
“Time and again, we firmly asked Kyiv to listen to the aspirations of the people living in Donbas and the Russian-speaking residents of the country to respect their entirely legitimate desire to use their mother tongue and to teach their children in that language,” Nebenzia said.
Some context on Donbas: War broke out in 2014 after Russian-backed rebels seized government buildings in towns and cities across eastern Ukraine.
Intense fighting left portions of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts in the hands of Russian-backed separatists.
The Ukrainian government in Kyiv asserts the two regions are in effect Russian-occupied. The self-declared republics are not recognized by any government, other than Russia. The Ukrainian government refuses to talk directly with either separatist republic.
The Minsk agreement: In 2015, the Minsk II agreement led to a shaky ceasefire, and the conflict settled into static warfare along the Line of Contact that separates the Ukrainian government and separatist-controlled areas. The Minsk Agreements (named after the capital of Belarus where they were concluded) ban heavy weapons near the Line of Contact.
At the meeting on Monday, Nebenzia reiterated earlier claims that Russia was not a party to the Minsk agreement.
“We remain open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution. However, allowing a bloodbath in the Donbas is something we do not intend to do,” he said. “The main aim of our decision was to protect and preserve those people, and that is more important than all of your threats.”
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