GENEVA - A senior Ukrainian diplomat says his country is seeking a peaceful end to the crisis with Russia, despite worrying signals about the Kremlin's plans. Ambassador Yurii Klymenko says Ukraine will do everything possible to defend itself if Russia's intervention in Ukraine becomes an outright invasion.
Klymenko, Ukraine's ambassador to U.N. agencies in Geneva, warns that no one should underestimate Russia’s expansionist designs. He recalls how Russia gobbled up parts of Georgia in 2008, and says it has now achieved a similar result on the Crimean peninsula.
The envoy says Russia’s annexation of Crimea is destabilizing southern and eastern Ukraine. He cites alleged evidence that so-called separatist rallies are being initiated by extremists in Russia who have infiltrated into Ukraine.
“There also are further indications that Russia is on its way to unleash a full-blown military intervention in Ukraine, east and south. Ukraine is on the highest alert to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all means, although we still have a nascent hope that the U.N. collective security is still capable of attaining its main goal [by] extending bridges of peace and security” says Klymenko.
The ambassador says Russia's military presence is not limited to Crimea. He contends Russian paratroopers are deployed in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, and he says there are reports that Russian forces have laid land mines in some areas.
Klymenko tells VOA that Ukraine and the Ukrainian people are ready to protect their homeland:
“But, we are committed - at this stage, we are still committed to the peaceful solution. There was a decision to use… Ukrainian troops in Crimea, to use weapons. But, as I mentioned before, only for their protection. But a lot depends on the further development of the situation. And once again, the use of the right to self-defense - it would be the last resort of Ukraine,” says Klymenko.
The Ukrainian ambassador chooses his words carefully. It is clear he does not want to provoke any unintended result from Russia. He does display anger at the assault upon his country and government. And he is pleased to note that Russia has been isolated at the current session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, where not a single voice was raised in support of Russia.
Klymenko says Russia is putting the whole world in danger, but Ukraine is working with the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the Council of Europe to find a peaceful way out of this crisis.