The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Nigeria, Ambassador Alexey Shebarshin has given a deep insight into the reason Russia is invading Ukraine, notwithstanding international outcry and condemnation of such action in this interview with LINUS ALEKE of THISNIGERIA
What is the real reason behind this protracted crisis between Ukraine and Russia?
Yes, of course. Many Russian high-ranking officials have covered the history of this conflict many times. Yet it is very important that your readers understand the motivation of all our current actions. So, I will allow myself to describe the background in detail once again.
Eight years ago, the legitimately elected President of Ukraine was removed from office by an armed coup in Kyiv. Radical forces came to power, which immediately announced their intentions to wage an uncompromising war on the Russian language, to inculcate their ideology of aggressive nationalism and to repress all who disagree.
The Maidan insurgents rejected every attempt to achieve a political solution to the internal crisis in Ukraine. The agreement to end the crisis was signed by President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and representatives of the opposition on February 21, 2014. Germany, France and Poland provided guarantees. It could have helped calm the situation and protect the interests of the people in all regions of that country without exception. However, the opposition immediately trampled this peace plan on, and a bloody putsch ensued in Kyiv on February 22, 2014.
Ukraine has been plunging deeper and deeper into anarchy and mayhem. Lawlessness reigned in the country amid an atmosphere of total impunity and absence of authority. Reprisals against undesirable individuals, lustration and persecution of dissidents became the norm.
Russophobia has been running rampant and now defines Ukraine today. In violation of its own Constitution and legislation, Kyiv launched a massive offensive against the Russian language, grossly violating the linguistic, educational and cultural rights of tens of millions of Russian-speaking citizens in the process.
A deep church schism was provoked by the persecution of the canonical Orthodox Church, the seizure of its churches by radical nationalist raiders and the theft of its property. All of that unfolded with the acquiescence of law enforcement agencies and the tacit approval of the government.
Decommunisation was used as a pretext to attack the country’s history. The attempts to falsify history have reached an unprecedented scale with Nazi collaborators and henchmen elevated to the rank of heroes of Ukraine.
Since 2014, the Russian Embassy in Kyiv and the Consulates General of our country in Odesa, Lviv and Kharkiv have come under repeated attack. The Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Kyiv was repeatedly targeted for provocation, its leader was injured, and damage was caused to the centre’s property. The perpetrators of these aggressive actions targeted Russian diplomats as well, threatened them with violence. Their vehicles were set on fire. Contrary to their obligations under the Vienna conventions on diplomatic and consular relations, the Kyiv authorities failed to respond to what was happening.
In addition, talking on the issue of Donbas, for the last eight years, since the bloody coup in Kyiv, we have witnessed the tragic events in Donbas. Despite its obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures, Ukraine has continued to shell civilian facilities and sabotage talks within the Trilateral Contact Group and the Normandy format. It has, in practice, withdrawn from these agreements. During the past few days, the situation has been dramatically aggravated. The DPR and the LPR have come under regular gunfire. Artillery strikes have been launched at Donetsk and Lugansk resulting in human casualties and damage to infrastructure; many populated areas have been left without running water, gas and electricity.
The region’s residents are forced to leave their homes, with over 80,000 people arriving in the Russian Federation as part of an evacuation drive. We find ourselves on the threshold of large-scale hostilities that threaten the human toll of thousands of lives. To prevent these developments, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has decided to respond positively to the address from the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and the appeals from the heads of the DPR and the LPR.
What effort had Russia made, and is still making to ensure that peace and diplomacy triumph over kinetic options?
I would like to remind you that when the Minsk agreements were adopted, that is, in 2015, it was Russia that convinced the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics to sign these agreements. Although, as the President said recently, answering journalists’ questions, it was difficult to do this; even convincing them to discuss such agreements was difficult.
We not only convinced the republics to sign the agreement, but overall we worked it out.
The President of Russia, together with other leaders, formulated them. All these years we have consistently exerted influence on the DPR and the LPR so that they fulfil their part of the obligations. And they performed them in full, despite the fact that it cost them at the price of huge sacrifices, in particular human ones. Right up to the very day of the recognition of these two republics, Russia did everything within the framework of the Minsk format to ensure the triumph of peace.
Ukraine yet did everything to ensure that the agreements were never implemented. I would like to remind you that in accordance with the Minsk Package, the dialogue on the future status of Donbas as part of post-conflict Ukraine was supposed to begin the day after the withdrawal of heavy weapons was completed. The withdrawal of heavy weapons was officially completed on March 8, 2015. A dialogue was to begin on March 9, and by the end of 2015, amendments to the Constitution agreed with Donbas, worked out within the framework of this dialogue, and permanent legislation on special status were to come into force. Then local elections were to be held suitable for this status and the conflict was to end with the transfer of control over the Russian-Ukrainian border under the control of Ukraine.
This is what it should have been. This dialogue has not been started. Ukraine directly says that the Russian-speaking population will be displaced from the Donbas region at best.
We were left with no choice. The recognition of the DPR and the LPR has become the only possible form of maintaining peace at this stage, or rather its restoration. By our recognition, we prevented the genocide of the people of these republics by Ukraine, prevented the mass slaughter of the Russian-speaking population.
We believe that this step not only helped save the lives of millions of people, but also laid the foundation for real equal-equal negotiations in the future, and not for the twaddle with which Ukraine fooled the international community while secretly conducting large-scale preparations for a military operation. Although in recent months, they have conducted such preparation quite openly and defiantly.
How valid is the trending report that Russian authorities are demanding that Ukraine and other former Soviet States be denied membership of NATO?
Yes, it is absolutely true, and this is particularly true of Ukraine. Now I will explain our position.
Kyiv has long proclaimed a strategic course on joining NATO. Indeed, each country is entitled to pick its own security system and enter into military alliances. There would be no problem with that if it were not for one “but.” International documents expressly stipulate the principle of equal and indivisible security, which includes obligations not to strengthen one’s own security at the expense of the security of other states. In other words, the choice of pathways towards guaranteeing security should not pose a threat to other states, whereas Ukraine joining NATO is a direct threat to Russia’s security.
All the while, they are trying to convince us over and over again that NATO is a peace-loving and purely defensive alliance that poses no threat to Russia. In 1990, when German unification was on agenda, the United States promised the Soviet leadership that NATO jurisdiction or military presence will not expand one inch to the east and that the unification of Germany will not lead to the spread of NATO’s military organisation to the east. However, the exact opposite happened. Russia has fulfilled all of its obligations, while NATO has done nothing.
The NATO countries and, first of all, the United States have explicitly stated that they see us as an enemy. Why? NATO just does not need a vast and independent nation like Russia around. This is the cause of America’s pugnacious policy towards Russia. And today the Alliance’s military infrastructure has reached Russia’s borders. Ukraine’s accession to NATO has already been decided and is only a matter of time and that means that the subsequent deployment of NATO facilities is also in two shakes.
Therefore, based on the principles of strategic security in Europe that I mentioned, enshrined as norms of international law, we demand that countries like Ukraine never become members of NATO.
What is Russia’s core interest in the Crimean Peninsula that led to your annexation of the territory? Is it economic or political or primitive land grabbing, or show of might as your critics would want to put it?
It was the actions of Ukraine that pushed us to what happened. I could list for you the geostrategic, legal incentives that forced Russia to intervene and protect Crimea for a very long time. A huge number of incentives lie in the plane of security and banal physical survival of the Crimeans, who at the beginning of 2014 faced the threat of real genocide. But still, I will name the key milestones that led to the reunification of Crimea with Russia.
On February 23, 2014, an illegal attempt to remove the lawfully elected president of the country from his post despite the procedure provided for in Article 108 of the Ukrainian Constitution turned out to be a success. The group headed by A.Turchinov and A.Yatsenyuk seized the power by force. In fact, the Constitution lost its’ effect because the required legal conditions for its’ application have been lost. However, in Crimea, unlike in Kyiv, lawfully elected bodies of state power continued their work, while the Autonomous Republic of Crimea continued to exercise limited sovereignty on its’ territory in accordance with its Constitution.
According to section 10 of the Ukrainian Constitution of 1996, the territory of Crimea is covered by autonomous legal status, which is legally applied to the rights of peoples. According to Article 138.2 of this section of the Ukrainian Constitution, in particular, the jurisdiction of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea includes “the organization and conduct of local referendums,” while the possible subject of such referendums is not limited to this special “Crimean” section of the Constitution. The actions of the Crimean authorities in the conditions prevailing in Ukraine were of a legal nature.
The referendum conducted on March 16, 2014, with the attendance of more than 150 observers in connection with a coup d’etat and the seizure of power in Kyiv by nationalists and extremists has become the realization of the right of people to self-determination.
Does Russia intend to provide any military support to the recognized DPR and LPR?
You must already know that immediately after the recognition of the DPR and the LPR, Russia signed Treaties of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance with the republics.
This treaty stipulates that the Parties intend to collaborate in the area of foreign policy, in the matter of defending sovereignty and territorial integrity and ensuring security, among other things by rendering any necessary assistance to the other, including military assistance, as well as providing the right to build, use or improve military infrastructure and military bases on their territory. It is envisaged that the Parties sign separate agreements on military cooperation.
Therefore, legally, Russia has grounds for almost any type and scale of military support to the republics. The Ukrainian aggression leaves us no other choice but to protect the people of Donbas and the people of Russia, and we are doing right now.
Do you suspect that some alien interests are trying to paint Russia in bad light before the world, considering the fact that Putin has reiterated the stance of Russia, in pushing for stability and prosperity of its neighbours?
As I have already mentioned, answering the previous questions, the countries of the so-called collective West, for some reason considering themselves solely competent to speak on behalf of the civilized world, systematically try to knock the ground out from under the feet of their country and make provocative statements.
There are too many of them to mention everything, I will give an example of a series of statements made by the British Foreign Minister about a month ago and of the French Government.
On January 22 of this year, the British Foreign Office and Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss made these bold statements: “We have information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv …”, “We have information that the Russian intelligence services maintain links with numerous former Ukrainian politicians…”. The Foreign Office did not cite any evidence to justify its groundless statements. They simply say, “We have information” and then use their favourite phrase “highly likely.”
On February 3 it was reported that the French audiovisual and digital regulator Arcom launched an investigation into RT France citing allegations from some unnamed “associations.” The media regulator has not revealed the essence of the allegations. A request from the TV channel’s editor-in-chief still remains unanswered.
And in Germany, the rhetoric of the national media is becoming more and more destructive, amid restrictions on the broadcasting of Russian channels. Of course, they want to denigrate Russia and deprive it of the right to convey its position directly to the world community
Do you think that the press is blowing this territorial crisis out of proportion? If yes, do you know those behind the media campaign and what they want to achieve with this?
This question is largely related to what I literally just said. The press does not puff up the problem, it is indeed a burning issue. But the coverage of the problem in the Western media is frankly anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian. Our journalists are gagged and are not allowed to cover the real situation.
It is obvious that this situation is in the hands of Western countries and especially the big brother – the United States. By creating the necessary information background, the Americans and their allies come up with pretexts for more and more sanctions.
For NATO countries and, of course, the United States, the Ukrainian crisis is a bargaining chip, and more importantly, this crisis is almost a perpetual motion machine for arguing for the endless expansion of NATO to the east and the strengthening of the US military presence in Europe.