Russian troops are carrying out drills on their own territory and this should not worry anyone, the deputy Russian ambassador to the UN has told Sky News.
Dmitry Polyanskiy denied Moscow was about to invade Ukraine and insisted Russia is simply carrying out military exercises with Belarus that were announced months ago.
He accused Western leaders of “scaremongering and warmongering” and claimed they only started saying Russia was going to invade when Moscow told them of their plans for European security.
Pre-announced drills on Russian soil
The diplomat told Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “I don’t think anybody should tell us when we should or shouldn’t conduct drills.
“Our drills happened before, we announced a number of drills beforehand in Belorussia and also in the middle of the country – were announced months ago and they are now being presented as a kind of Russian escalation.
“This is not true. I don’t think that our drills on our territory should worry anyone.”
Western leaders have continued to warn Russia is about to invade Ukraine, with more than 150,000 troops now amassed at the border. They are discussing the situation at the Munich security conference this weekend.
‘Invasion on 30 February’
However, Mr Polyanskiy denied this and flippantly said the invasion date is 30 February – which does not exist – and added: “You can mark this date in your calendar – if you can find it, of course.”
He also questioned where the West was getting the number of troops from, saying he does not trust US and British intelligence as they have “let us down on many occasions” as he cited the alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that were never found.
‘Ukraine shelling Russian territory’
The Russian diplomat also accused Ukraine of shelling people in Donbas, the area of Ukraine taken by Russian-backed rebels in 2014.
He added: “Whether it is aggression or not is difficult to say but when you have 120,000 [Ukrainian] troops in full capacity to strike at the border of the line of contact actually, I think you have to be preoccupied and you have to think about aggression.”
On Friday, Vladimir Putin announced he would be overseeing nuclear drills in Russia this weekend.
Mr Polyanskiy said because Russia has nuclear weapons “of course, you need to keep it in good shape so these [drills] are necessary from time to time”.
He added that he was sure Mr Putin had “good reasons” to announce the nuclear exercises and argued there are “a lot of issues” the world should be focusing on other than Russian drills “on our own territory”.
‘Russia has legitimate security concerns’
The Russian deputy ambassador said Mr Putin has “absolutely legitimate concerns” about Russia’s security “which is being affected by NATO placement of infrastructure and troops near our borders”.
He called for “concrete proposals” to allay those security concerns which are, he said, “long overdue” and said Western leaders need to see what they can do with Russia to allay its concerns.
Mr Polyanskiy denied Mr Putin was enjoying having the spotlight on Russia, adding: “We see absolutely a lack of responsibility on behalf of Western leaders right now with a lot of scaremongering and warmongering.
“I don’t know anybody who is enjoying this situation in Russia.
“The picture is much bigger and Ukraine is only one piece of this puzzle and that was exactly, we assume, I assume personally, it was exactly the tactics of our Western partners to start all this hype when we informed them about our proposal…dropped treaties with US and NATO about European security.
“This is a very strange coincidence, isn’t it?”
Moscow claims the USSR was deceived on the issue of NATO expansion and has been calling for the alliance to provide legally binding security guarantees it will not expand its membership east to Ukraine and Georgia.
NATO leaders have been clear they will not prevent any country that qualifies from becoming a member.