Russia accuses West of using Ukraine as 'testing site'

Ukraine is close to the launch of a much-touted counter-offensive

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy embarked on a European tour with the objective of securing additional military aid. AP
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Russia accused the West on Thursday of showing no interest in pursuing a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine and using the country as a “testing site”.

“There is a proxy war being waged with Russia and Ukraine,” Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s UN ambassador, told the 15-member Security Council.

“Since the last meeting of the council in February on the supply of western weapons to Ukraine, their influx has not only not decreased, but it is ever growing.”

Mr Nebenzya argued that certain nations do not adhere to disarmament agreements and irresponsibly fuel the proliferation of arms in the country.

“The aims of the collective West are clear to everyone … these are far from being the moral principles and high humanitarian values for using Ukraine as a testing site, dragging out the conflict down to the last Ukrainian,” he said.

Russia has previously accused the US, without substantiated evidence, of funding biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine, though Washington has denied the claims.

The ambassador's comments came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy successfully secured more arms to bolster his country's defence capabilities.

Robert Wood, deputy US ambassador to the UN, said arms shipments to Ukraine are “not the cause of the continuation of Russia's needless war”.

“If Russia had any genuine desire for de-escalation, it would simply withdraw its troops and end its invasion,” he said.

This was the fifth Security Council meeting on the issue of weapons supplies to Ukraine, which took place amid a series of announcements of new military aid to country, aimed at bolstering its expected counter-offensive.

Last week, Mr Zelenskyy embarked on a European tour with the objective of securing additional military aid and forming a coalition of countries committed to providing Kyiv with fighter jets.

Germany announced an additional military aid package worth $2.7 billion, which includes Leopard tanks and additional anti-aircraft systems.

During an address to the British Parliament last week, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced a donation of Storm Shadow long-range missiles to Ukraine, which would enable Mr Zelenskyy to “push back Russian forces within Ukrainian sovereign territory”.

Adedeji Ebo, director of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and deputy to the High Representative, told council members that information from governments about their transfers of weapons systems and ammunition to Ukraine is “available in open sources”.

The disarmament official said there have also been reports of states transferring or planning to transfer weapons such as uncrewed combat aerial vehicles and ammunition to Russia for use in Ukraine.

He warned that the influx of weapons in any armed conflict can increase the risk of escalation.

The US and European Council members questioned Russia’s rationale for convening Thursday's briefing and argued that the meeting was intended to divert attention from Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

France’s UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere asked: “What does Russia expect? that supplies of weapons to Ukraine will cease so that Russia can win this war and impose its will?”

He accused Moscow of violating UN resolutions by seeking to procure weapons illegally, to replenish “their dwindling stocks by buying combat drones from Iran and missiles and ammunition from North Korea”.

Mr de Riviere noted that “some of these arms are used by the Wagner [Group] private militia, whose abuses and crimes are now well documented”.

UK’s ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward said Britain would continue to respond to Ukraine's requests for the “means to defend itself” against Russian aggression.

Updated: May 18, 2023, 11:09 PM