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Russia refrains from attending OSCE Permanent Council meeting on Ukraine

Russia sees no point in explaining for the second time in one day its military activity near the Ukrainian border

VIENNA, April 30 /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian delegation did not attend a special meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation and the OSCE Permanent Council convened on Wednesday, April 30, over Russian military activities near the Ukrainian border.

Russia sees no point in explaining for the second time in one day its military activity near the Ukrainian border, Andrei Kelin, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said.

“We see no point in doing this because I said this morning at a meeting of the Permanent Council that military exercises had been held but as soon as the Kiev authorities said that they would not use the Armed Forces against the people, the Russian units were withdrawn to their permanent bases away from the Russian-Ukrainian border,” Kelin said.

“This is the third senseless attempt to convene this extraordinary mechanism which is provided for in Section 3 of the Vienna Document. The purpose of doing this is to create the atmosphere of extraordinariness and justify the inaction and incompetence of the Kiev authorities,” the diplomat said. “They cannot control the situation in the east of the country without starting a dialogue, and as protests there are gaining momentum, it will be increasingly difficult to come to agreement on constitutional reform, the status of the language and other issues.”

U.S. Permanent Representative to the OSCE Daniel Baer was so much displeased with the absence of the Russian envoy that he Twitted pictures of his empty seat from two angles, having obviously had to walk around the room to take them.

On April 24, Kiev sent an official inquiry to the OSCE following Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s statement that battalion-level tactical groups of the Southern and Western Military Districts had started exercises in regions bordering on Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that in reply to Kiev’s inquiry Moscow had failed to provide exhaustive explanations regarding the purpose and place of military manoeuvres held in the Southern and Western Military Districts over the past several days near the Ukrainian border, the date of their completion and the number and type of military units involved.

“Given the insufficient information received, Ukraine has suggested to the Russian Federation that consultations be held in Vienna on April 28, as provided for in the abovementioned document, in order to discuss this issue. Other states that have voiced concern about Russia’s military activities near the Ukrainian border have also been invited to take part in the consultations,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the Russia Today television channel this week that Russian troops were staying on their own territory and were not taking any steps that would go against their obligations.

“We have never denied the fact that we sent additional troops to the border [with Ukraine] just as the Ukrainian government redeployed its troops closer to our border. Our troops are conducting exercises on the territory of our own country. Such exercises are conducted regularly since Sergei Shoigu was appointed defence minister,” Lavrov said.

Exercises are held in different parts of Russia. “As far as I know, the next exercises will be held in the north-west of the country. This is a continuous process. The army must be in good shape and ready to act while hoping that it will not have to interfere,” the minister said.

“However, if we are attacked, we will respond by all means. If our legitimate interests and the interests of Russian people are directly affected, as was the case in South Ossetia, I see no way to respond other than doping so in full compliance with international law. Those who threaten the security of Russian citizens jeopardise the security of the whole country,” Lavrov said.

He stressed the fact that Russian troops were staying on the territory of Russia. “Demands for inspections under the so-called Vienna Document of 2011 and the Treaty on Open Skies were satisfied. Inspectors from the United States, the European Union and Ukraine visited Russian troops’ bases and could not cite even one fact that would signify dangerous military activities on the part of Russia,” the minister said.

“We are on our own territory and are not taking any actions that would go against our obligations,” he said. “Ukrainian troops are also staying on their territory, but the difference is that they have an order allowing them to use weapons against peaceful citizens. This is a criminal order.