The US has called for the United Nations (UN) Security Council to hold a public meeting to discuss Russia’s “threatening behaviour” against Ukraine.
On Thursday, the US ambassador to the UN asked the security council to meet publicly on Monday.
Russia has manoeuvred around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, though Moscow has denied it plans to invade its former Soviet neighbour.
Russia ‘engaging in destabilising acts’
“Russia is engaging in other destabilising acts aimed at Ukraine, posing a clear threat to international peace and security and the UN Charter,” ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement.
“This is not a moment to wait and see. The council’s full attention is needed now, and we look forward to direct and purposeful discussion on Monday,” she added.
Any member of the security council could call for a procedural vote to block the meeting. At least nine votes are needed to win such a vote and Russia, the US, Britain, France, and China cannot use their vetoes.
“As we continue our relentless pursuit of diplomacy to de-escalate tensions in the face of this serious threat to European and global peace and security, the UN Security Council is a crucial venue for diplomacy,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said.
The UN Security Council has met dozens of times to discuss the Ukraine issue since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, but it is unable to take action as Russia has veto powers.
Difference in interpretation surrounds US-Ukraine phone call
The US has now called for a UN Security Council in New York on Monday. I don’t think this is a huge surprise.
It is another avenue for diplomacy. Remember that Russia takes over the rotating presidency of the security council in February, so to get a meeting in beforehand is clearly useful.
That’s the first bit of news. The second is rather more intriguing.
There was a phone call this afternoon US time between presidents Zelensky of Ukraine and Biden of America. It was a chance for the two of them to catch up. They’ve clearly spoken a lot over the course of the past week or so.
But there is a big difference in interpretation of how that phone call went.
The Americans have released a pretty bland statement saying that it went pretty well: President Biden reaffirmed the readiness of the United States along with its allies to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine. Biden also underscored the commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s sovereign and territorial integrity.
But the Ukrainians are suggesting that President Biden, and this is being reported in the US media, that President Biden said that Kiev could be overrun, that Russian forces may attempt to occupy it, and to “prepare for impact”.
That is apparently what President Biden said to President Zelensky. To which the Americans, in the form of the spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, has said not true, this is not the right interpretation.
“President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has said this previously and publicly and we’ve been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different from that are completely false.”
Biden calls Ukrainian president
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden held a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which they agreed on “joint actions for the future” and discussed possibilities of financial support, Mr Zelenskiy tweeted.
The US has also sought to reassure the EU it will help them find alternative gas supplies if Russia cuts them off. EU nations rely on Russia for around a third of their gas supplies.
Another call will take place on Friday morning – this time between Russian President Vladimir Putin and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
Russia says US has not addressed security concerns
Earlier on Thursday, Russia said the US had not addressed its main security concerns – though stressed both sides would keep the door open to further dialogue.
The US and NATO had submitted written responses on Wednesday to Russia’s demands for a redrawing of post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow needed time to review and would not rush to conclusions.
But he said US and NATO statements describing Russia’s main demands as unacceptable did not leave much ground for optimism.
“Based on what our (US and NATO) colleagues said yesterday, it’s absolutely clear that on the main categories outlined in those draft documents … we cannot say that our thoughts have been taken into account or that a willingness has been shown to take our concerns into account,” Mr Peskov said. “But we won’t rush with our assessments.”
Western nations have threatened economic sanctions if Russia further invades Ukraine, building on measures imposed since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.