‘Exercise utmost restraint’: India on Ukraine crisis at UNSC emergency session

Feb 22, 2022 10:55 AM IST

The borders claimed by leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics include regions controlled by the Ukrainian government

NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday expressed deep concern over the escalation of tension along Ukraine’s border with Russia, calling on all parties to exercise “utmost restraint” and step up diplomatic efforts to find a “mutually amicable solution” to the crisis in eastern Europe.

The United Nations Security Council meets on February 21, 2022 after Russia recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities. (REUTERS)
The United Nations Security Council meets on February 21, 2022 after Russia recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities. (REUTERS)

TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations, presented the country’s position during an emergency session of the UN Security Council convened by Ukraine with the US and the UK, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognising the independence of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“We have been closely following the evolving developments relating to Ukraine, including developments along the eastern border of Ukraine and the related announcement by the Russian Federation,” Tirumurti said.

“The escalation of tension along the border of Ukraine with the Russian Federation is a matter of deep concern. These developments have the potential to undermine peace and security of the region,” he said.

Also read:War fears grow as Russia recognises Ukraine rebel areas - 10 top developments

Tirumurti sought “restraint on all sides” and reiterated India’s call for the immediate de-escalation of tension while “taking into account the legitimate security interests of all countries and aimed towards securing long-term peace and stability in the region and beyond”.

He also reiterated India’s contention that the issue “can only be resolved through diplomatic dialogue”, and said: “We need to give space to the recent initiatives undertaken by parties which seek to diffuse tensions.”

In this context, Tirumurti welcomed “intense efforts” to address the situation, including through the trilateral contact group and under the Normandy format. 

He said the Minsk Agreements provide the basis for a negotiated and peaceful settlement, and added that all parties need to make “greater efforts to find common ground to facilitate the implementation of the provisions of the Minsk Agreements, including key security and political aspects”.

The Normandy format talks involve Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France, and the Minsk Agreements were finalised in 2014 to end fighting in the Donbas region.

“We need parties to exert greater efforts to bridge divergent interests. We cannot afford to have a military escalation,” Tirumurti said, highlighting the need for constructive diplomacy to avoid scaling up of tensions.

Tirumurti further reiterated India’s focus on the well-being of more than 20,000 Indian students and nationals living and studying in Ukraine, including in border areas.

“In conclusion, we strongly emphasise the vital need for all sides to maintain international peace and security by exercising the utmost restraint and intensifying diplomatic efforts to ensure that a mutually amicable solution is arrived at the earliest,” he said.

Unlike most other members of the UN Security Council, India has stopped short of criticising the latest actions of Russia, a close strategic ally and defence partner, along the borders of Ukraine. It has insisted on a diplomatic solution to the crisis that ensures the “legitimate security interests of all countries”.

Soon after signing decrees recognising the independence of the Russia-backed regions of Luhansk and Donetsk during a televised address early on Tuesday, Putin ordered troops into separatist-held parts of the “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine for what the Kremlin said was a “peacekeeping” mission.

The borders claimed by the leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics include regions controlled by the Ukrainian government, and Putin’s decision triggered concerns that the movement of Russian troops into the breakaway regions could lead to a larger military operation, or the invasion that the US and its allies have been warning about.

During his long televised speech, Putin appeared to cast doubt on the very existence of several former Soviet republics as independent countries and said Ukraine has “never had traditions of its own statehood”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who addressed his nation shortly after Putin’s speech, said Russia’s actions violate his country’s “national integrity and sovereignty” and that there would be no change to Ukraine’s borders.

The US administration contended Putin’s speech was meant to “justify” a war, and an unnamed American official said it amounted to “an attack on the very idea of a sovereign and independent Ukraine” using “false claims” meant to justify military action.

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