Russia has never planned on invading Ukraine, and won’t do so “unless provoked,” Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador said on Thursday. His words followed sharp criticism from the United States over reports of a troop buildup at Ukraine’s border.
“Never planned, never did,” said Dmitry Polyanskiy when pressed by a reporter at U.N. headquarters on whether Russia is planning on a military invasion of Ukraine, amid reports of a surge in troop presence along the countries borders.
“Never going to do it unless we’re provoked by Ukraine, or by somebody else,” or if Russia’s national sovereignty is threatened, added Polyanskiy, First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations.
The diplomat’s remarks followed a stern message from Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week that Russia may be “attempting to rehash” its 2014 invasion of Ukraine. Blinken said the U.S. is “concerned by reports of unusual Russian military activity.”
He was referring to claims made by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry last week that about 90,000 Russian troops are stationed close to its border.
The Biden administration is “monitoring the situation “very closely,” Blinken added.
Polyanskiy said that Moscow is entitled to concentrate its troops anywhere on its territory. “This is not Ukrainian territory. This is Russian territory,” he said.
“There are a lot of threats coming from Ukraine,” Polyanskiy continued. “And do not forget about American warships in the Black Sea, which operate very provocatively.”
“So, every day is a very difficult day to avoid direct clash in the Black Sea. We warned our American colleagues that this is a real provocation,” he told reporters.
Newsweek has reached out to Polyanskiy for clarification on what would constitute a “provocation” in the Kremlin’s view.
Blinken earlier this week said that Washington isn’t clear on Moscow’s intentions, but suggested that Russia’s “playbook” has been to invent fictitious provocations along its border with Ukraine as a means to justify subsequent military actions.
“Our concern is that Russia may make a serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014, when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked,” he said.
“We don’t have clarity into Moscow’s intentions, but we do know its playbook,” he added. “If there are any provocations that we’re seeing, they’re coming from Russia.”
The U.S. would view any escalation by Moscow along the border with “grave concern,” he continued, noting that the Biden administration’s commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty and independence remains “ironclad.”
Separately, on Wednesday, multiple sources told Bloomberg that U.S. officials have briefed their allies in the EU on their concerns of a possible military operation by Russia in Ukraine. Newsweek has been unable to independently verify the reports.
Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists have been fighting in eastern Ukraine since 2014, when Moscow illegally invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
In an address to the nation late Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that “psychological pressure from Russia doesn’t have an impact on” the country.
“I hope now the whole world clearly sees who really wants peace and who is concentrating almost 100,000 troops on our border,” he said. “Our intelligence has all the information, our army is ready to repel anytime and anywhere.”
Newsweek has contacted representatives for the White House and the Pentagon for comment.