Russia’s envoy to the United States has warned that Washington was only stoking further conflict between Moscow and Kyiv by sending additional military equipment to Ukraine and dismissing the Kremlin’s recent holiday ceasefire directive.
In comments shared with Newsweek by the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov criticized the US decision to send Bradley Fighting Vehicles, part of a $3 billion military package, to Ukraine, calling it “confirmation that our interlocutors in the United States have not even tried to listen to our numerous calls to take into account possible consequences of such a dangerous course by Washington.”
“It is finally becoming clear to the whole international community that in 2014 the US unleashed a real proxy-war against Russia by supporting Nazi criminals in Kiev,” Antonov argued.
That year saw a political uprising in the Ukrainian capital bring to power a pro-West government while a pro-Moscow separatist insurgency erupted in the country’s eastern Donbas region. Russia, accusing Ukraine of fostering extremism, meanwhile occupied the Crimean Peninsula and soon annexed it in an internationally disputed referendum.
Since then, the US and a number of NATO allies have armed and trained Ukrainian forces as Kyiv and its backers accused Moscow of waging an eight-year thinly veiled war of aggression. Russian troops launched an all-out attack on the neighboring country in February, annexing four more regions—the self-proclaimed Donbas republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia—in another series of unrecognized votes and spurring on greater Western support for Ukraine.
And while the White House maintained such weapons were intended solely to defend Ukrainian territory, Antonov asserted that “any talk about a ‘defensive nature’ of weapons supplied to Ukraine has long become absurd.”
“The actions of the Administration spur Ukrainian radicals to proceed with their terrible deeds,” Antonov said. “With every consecutive transfer of arms their feeling of impunity grows stronger. They continue to kill civilians in Donbas, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions of the Russian Federation in an extremely cynical way.”
Kyiv has vehemently denied such accusations, as well as the notion that the former Soviet Republic and its aspirations to join the NATO alliance posed any threat to its larger neighbor. As the war for these four regions continued to rage, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration has also accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of war crimes over allegations that Russian troops had committed atrocities.
And as US and allied aid continues to flow to Ukraine, Antonov was especially critical of the fact that the latest decision to send Bradley Fighting Vehicles was revealed after a phone conversation between US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Condemning the West’s role in the broader conflict, Antonov asserted that former leaders Angela Merkel of Germany and Francois Hollande of France had previously “confessed” that “the Minsk agreements served to give time to Kiev to enhance its military capabilities.”
The series of deals signed in 2014 and 2015 between Kyiv and separatists amid mediation by the two European heads of state were intended to halt the conflict but plagued by regular claims of violations from both sides. Antonov said that the latest developments were evidence of a long-running plot to undermine Russia against the backdrop of failed diplomacy.
“In view of close ties between Washington and Berlin it becomes clear that the West under US leadership simply deceived our country and started to purposefully weaken Russia much earlier than February 24, 2022,” Antonov said. “How shall one trust the politicians of major Western European states if and when there comes a moment to talk about the future world order, the system and substance of agreements possibly needed to this end?”
The conflict has severely strained Russia’s ties with the US and its allies that have joined Zelensky in demanding that Putin withdraw his troops from Ukraine. But Antonov said that, given the course of events, “nobody should still have doubts who bears responsibility for prolonging this conflict.”
“All the actions by the Administration indicate a lack of any desire for a political settlement,” Antonov said.
This, he argued, extended even to the Kremlin’s decision Thursday “to introduce a ceasefire along the entire line of contact in Ukraine” for 36 hours between January 6 and 7, coinciding with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as celebrated by the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. The order followed an appeal by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and was to allow observers “to attend church services” on these holy days.
It also came shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has managed to organize a grain deal and prisoner swap between Moscow and Kyiv throughout the conflict, spoke separately with Putin and Zelensky.
While Zelensky thanked Erdogan for his efforts in pursuing peace, the Ukrainian leader and his officials have rejected Putin’s ceasefire. National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov was particularly scathing in his dismissal.
“How does a pack of petty kremlin devils relate to a Christian holiday? Who will believe scum that kills children, bombards maternity hospitals, tortures prisoners? A ceasefire? Lies and hypocrisy,” Danilov tweeted. “We will bite you in the singing silence of the Ukrainian night.”
US officials were also critical.
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brigadier General Scott Ryder said “there’s significant skepticism both here in the US and around the world right now, given Russia’s long track record of propaganda, disinformation, and its relentless attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians.”
“So, of course, from our perspective, if Russia was truly interested in ceasing the violence and the bloodshed that they have brought to Ukraine’s people, they would pull out of Ukraine immediately and this war will end together right now,” Ryder said. “But it appears that will not be the case, so our focus will continue to be on supporting Ukraine with their security assistance needs, as they fight to defend their country.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price called the move “cynical” due to Russian attacks on Ukraine coinciding with New Year’s Day. He expressed “concern” that “the Russians would seek to use any temporary pause in fighting to rest, to refit, to regroup, and ultimately to reattack.”
As for Biden, he labeled the move an attempt by his Russian counterpart “to find some oxygen” amid the grueling conflict rather than a genuine gesture to cease hostilities.
Antonov took particular note of the US leader’s reaction in line with the latest announcement of more military equipment to Ukraine.
“All this means that Washington is committed to fight with us ‘to the last Ukrainian,” Antonov said, “while the destiny of people of Ukraine means nothing to the US”