USA: Russia faces pressure from the UN on the Ukraine crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States tried to increase pressure on Russia over Ukraine on Sunday, promising to put Moscow on the defensive in the UN Security Council, as lawmakers on Capitol Hill said they were approaching agreement on “the mother of all sanctions.”

The US ambassador to the UN said the Security Council would press Russia hard at a Monday session to discuss the country’s troops’ masses near Ukraine and growing fears that it was planning an invasion.

Any formal action by the Council is highly unlikely given Russia’s veto power and its relations with others in the Council, including China. But the American referral of Russia’s troop build-up to the UN supreme body gives both sides a big stage in their fight for global opinion.

“Our voices are united in calling on the Russians to explain themselves,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said of the United States and the other council members on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “We go into the room prepared to listen to them, but we do not want to be distracted by their propaganda.”

Russia’s gathering of an estimated 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine has brought increasingly strong warnings from the West that Moscow intends to invade. Russia demands that NATO never promise to allow Ukraine to join the alliance, and to stop the deployment of NATO weapons near Russian borders and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe.

The head of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, on Sunday rejected Western warnings of an invasion.

“At this point, they say Russia is threatening Ukraine – it’s completely ridiculous,” he was quoted as saying by the state news agency Tass. “We do not want war, and we do not need it at all.”

US and EU countries say a Russian invasion will trigger heavy sanctions. On Sunday, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, raised the prospect of imposing some punitive measures.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have disagreed on the timing of possible sanctions, with many GOP members pushing for the United States to impose harsh sanctions immediately instead of waiting for Russia to send new troops into Ukraine.

“There are some sanctions that could really take place on the front page, because of what Russia has already done – cyber attacks on Ukraine, fake flag operations, the efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government internally,” Menendez told CNN.

In the event of an invasion, the New Jersey Democrat said, Russia would face “the mother of all sanctions,” including actions against Russian banks that could severely undermine the Russian economy and increase lethal assistance to Ukraine’s military.

The sanctions would apparently be significantly stronger than those imposed after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. These sanctions have been seen as ineffective.

Russia has long resented NATO’s granting membership to countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or were in its sphere of influence as members of the Warsaw Pact.

NATO “has already come close to Ukraine. They also want to draw this country there,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sunday, “although everyone understands that Ukraine is not ready and can make no contribution to strengthening NATO security.”

Ukraine has been seeking NATO membership for years, but any prospect of joining seems far away as the country struggles to find political stability and attack corruption.

Late. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, suggested that Ukraine’s backing of its NATO hopes could speed up a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.

If the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “decides that the future membership, if there is to be one in NATO for Ukraine, and the question of the Russian occupation of Ukraine are two things to put on the table, I think we can move towards a solution to this, “Durbin told NBC.

Ukraine has shown no sign of willingness to make concessions to potential membership of the alliance.

Lavrov also stressed Russia’s claim that NATO enlargement is a threat, saying the alliance has engaged in offensive actions outside its member states.

“It’s hard to call it defensive. “Do not forget that they bombed Yugoslavia for almost three months, invaded Libya, violated the UN Security Council resolution and how they behaved in Afghanistan,” he said.

The United States and NATO have formally rejected Russia’s demand to halt NATO enlargement, although Washington outlined areas where discussions are possible and gave hope that there could be a way to avoid war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not made any public comments on the Western reaction. Lavrov has said the West’s position offers little chance of reaching agreement, though he also said Russia does not want war.

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