Counterspin: Russia Was Not Forced To Attack Ukraine to Defend Itself
From the very beginning of his column in the daily newspaper “Nova Makedonija”, Russian Ambassador Sergei Baznikin points out that Russia is committed to a quick cessation of hostilities and finding a solution through diplomacy, at the negotiating table. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that Russia is ready for a diplomatic solution to the situation with Ukraine. But, on the battlefield, the opposite proved to be the case. The deployment of more than 150,000 troops and heavy weapons near the border with Ukraine, as well as the attack that began on February 24 this year, are the opposite of a “diplomatic solution to the situation”
Author: Ana Anastasovska
Two days after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Russia’s ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia, Sergei Baznikin, in a column published in the newspaper “Nova Makedonija”, talks about Russia’s priorities in Ukraine. In his column, several spins can be recognized.
Spin: First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the Macedonian citizens, who honestly try to understand what is happening, advocate for a quick cessation of hostilities, finding a solution through diplomacy, at the negotiating table.
[Source: Nova Makedonija, date: 26.02.2022]
Counterspin: At the very beginning of his column, Russian Ambassador Baznikin points out that Russia is committed to a quick cessation of hostilities and a solution through diplomacy at the negotiating table. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that Russia is ready for a diplomatic solution to the situation with Ukraine, but, on the battlefield, the opposite proved to be the case. While Putin was holding diplomatic talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, he decided to recognize the two separatist republics, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic in Ukraine, which violated the territorial integrity of this country. Hours after the acknowledgement, Putin instructed the Defense Ministry to “ensure that peace in these republics by the Russian armed forces.”
The deployment of more than 150,000 troops and heavy weapons near the border with Ukraine, as well as the attack that began on February 24 this year, shows the opposite intentions of a “diplomatic solution to the situation.” The extent to which Russia really stands for diplomatic solutions was seen four days after the Russian invasion when negotiations between Ukraine and Russia began in Belarus. Ukraine demanded an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops, but, as could be seen from the situation on the ground, during the negotiations, Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities continued. In addition, on the same day, Russia, on Putin’s orders, put its nuclear forces on high alert.
Spin: Ukraine’s involvement into NATO, which is happening before our eyes, and the pumping of this country with weapons (since 2014 the United States has sent $ 2.7 billion worth of weapons to Kyiv – is not that an astronomical figure? Just last month Ukraine received 2,000 tons of weapons and ammunition) in the background of the pronounced anti-Russian course of its authorities are unacceptable to Russia. Especially in the context of the statement of the President of Ukraine on the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons in Kyiv, the column said.
Counterspin: Ukraine’s entry into NATO and arms shipments to Ukraine poses no threat to Russia, as Baznikin wants to portray. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, 14 Eastern European countries joined NATO. Four of those countries border Russia. Ukraine was promised membership in 2008 but was “frozen” indefinitely. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Moscow a few days ago that Ukraine’s membership in NATO “is not a topic for discussion” in the foreseeable future.
It is true that NATO has made preparations with its eastern members for a rapid redeployment of troops. But that was ordered only after Putin occupied Crimea in 2014. NATO has adhered to a fundamental agreement with Russia since 1997 to ban the permanent deployment of troops to new members. But since 2016, NATO has been regularly regrouping troops in the Baltic States and Poland. These units number about 5,000 troops, so the claim that this is a threat to Russia, which holds about 850,000 troops, is unrealistic.
As for the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, it is not prohibited and it is true that some countries deliver weapons to Ukraine, which is a sovereign country and has every right to demand it from other countries. The Ukrainian army needs weapons, as Russia has modernized its armed forces in recent years. On the other hand, Ukraine must consider how to defend itself, given that in the past 6-8 months its eastern and northern borders, those with Russia and Belarus, have accumulated between 150-190 thousand Russian troops with heavy offensive weapons ( tanks, infantry armored vehicles, multi-barrel rocket launchers, artillery, ballistic missiles…).
The fact is that “pumping Ukraine with weapons”, as the Russian ambassador says, began to happen only after the troops on the border with Ukraine became more visible. Prior to that, deliveries of defence weapons to Ukraine from Western partners took place through pre-agreed plans, after the necessary preparations had been made, as well as through smaller quantities.
In 2014, however, NATO officials stated that the Alliance would not send weapons to Ukraine, which is not a member state, but that individual members have every right to choose whether or not to do so. The arms shipment to Ukraine is entirely justified given the United Nations estimates that between 14,200 and 14,400 people were killed in the country between 2014 and February 2022, including at least 3,407 civilians, 4,400 members of the Ukrainian security forces and 6,500 members of armed groups.
As for Ukraine’s use of nuclear weapons and Russian fears about it, at a security conference for world leaders a week before Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “We do not have such weapons.”
Ukraine, which had the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal during the Cold War, gave up its nuclear weapons in the 1990s in exchange for security guarantees from the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia.
Spin: Developments in late 2021 – early 2022 and the analysis of the information we receive showed us that the clash with the Ukrainian national radicals, who were just waiting for the right hour to strike, was inevitable. Russia was left with no other option to protect itself and its citizens than the one we were forced to use.
Counterspin: In order to justify its attack on Ukraine, Russia has repeatedly stressed the need to stop the “genocide” against Russians in Ukraine carried out by Ukrainian national radicals. In his column, Ambassador Baznikin, like President Putin, uses the terms “demilitarization” and “denationalization” of Ukraine.
The term “genocide” is defined by the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide as “the crime of deliberate extermination of a national, ethnic or religious group or race”. Even the OSCE missions, that, with the consent of Moscow, conduct regular investigations into separatist areas, have found no basis for allegations of genocide.
According to UN data from 2021, some 3,000 civilians have been killed so far in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. According to the OSCE report, most civilian casualties were killed in artillery attacks.
The use of the term “denationalization” in connotation with Ukraine is completely wrong, says political scientist Andreas Umland of the Stockholm Center for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS). He points out that the current president of Ukraine is a Jew who won a non-Jewish candidate in the last elections.
Umland points out that there are far-right forces in Ukraine, which are still weak compared to other European countries.
In the last election, the far-right United Front won just 2.15 per cent of the votes, Umland said.
One right-wing extremist military unit, which was active at the start of the Donbas conflict, has come under criticism. But that group, according to Umland, is integrated into existing National Guard units. Right-wing extremist groups are a minor phenomenon in Ukraine, experts conclude.
Spin: Kyiv ignored its obligations under the Minsk agreements of 2015, categorically refusing to negotiate with the leadership of the two republics, while developing the myth of “Russian occupation”. Moreover, what are the Minsk agreements? This is exactly a plan for a step-by-step political settlement of the conflict, which contains several steps for the parties – Kyiv and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. The plan was signed by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany and then approved by the UN Security Council. Kyiv has accomplished virtually nothing. As we now understand, they had no intention of doing anything, considering, apparently, a military solution.
Counterspin: Non-fulfillment and non-implementation of the Minsk agreements cannot be attributed only to Ukraine.
Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists reached a 12-point ceasefire agreement in the Belarusian capital in September 2014. Its provisions included the exchange of prisoners, the delivery of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, five months after the conflict that killed more than 2,600 people – a figure that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky says has risen to about 15,000 since then. The agreement quickly failed, with violations on both sides.
Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and leaders of the two pro-Russian separatist regions signed a 13-point agreement in February 2015.
The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, gathered in Minsk at the same time, issued a Declaration in support of the agreement. The agreement outlined military and political steps that remained unimplemented. A major blockade was Russia’s insistence that it is not a party to the conflict and therefore not bound by its terms.
Clause 10 of the agreement, for example, calls for the withdrawal of all foreign armed formations and military equipment from the two disputed regions, Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine has claimed that this refers to Russian forces, but Moscow has denied that it has forces there.
The peace plan agreed in Minsk in 2015 contained 13 points, but neither side was ready to compromise. Under the Minsk agreement, Ukraine had to lift its economic and financial blockade and give the Donbas region special rights as part of a decentralization process. For such a thing, however, in Kyiv, there was no majority in sight.
At the same time, free elections were to be held in the occupied territories, which would be monitored by the OSCE. Neither the separatists nor Moscow was prepared for such a thing. The return of control of the border with Russia into Ukrainian hands was also rejected. This is exactly what the Minsk Agreement stipulates. Russia’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk is also a violation of the Minsk agreement.
Natalia Zaduruzhnyuk, Ukraine’s ambassador to Skopje, also confirmed that Russia was to blame for the non-fulfilment of the Minsk agreement, stressing that Russia had violated all agreements in the TV show “200” broadcasted on Alsat TV.
The situation is very serious, we are witnessing a huge gathering of the Russian army on the Ukrainian-Russian border, on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, we have a blockade of the Black Sea by Russia. We have provocation, shelling of kindergartens and schools, we have a cyber attack on state authorities, and yesterday violating all possible international documents, starting with the agreement between Ukraine and Russia, the Minsk agreements, brutally violating international law, the Kremlin recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, said Zaduruzhnyuk two days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Given all of the above, it can be said that the column of the Russian ambassador to the country is full of spins in order to justify Russia’s attack on Ukraine.