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Russia says 'open to diplomacy' over Ukraine, defends recognition of breakaway regions

The UN Security Council holds an emergency session over the Ukraine crisis.

Russian envoy to the United Nations has reaffirmed Moscow’s “openness to diplomacy”, noting that President Vladimir Putin’s move to declare two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine independent was aimed at foiling the new "Ukrainian military adventure".

"We remain open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution," Vasily Nebenzya said during an emergency UN Security Council session, even as the US and its allies rounded on Russia.

"However, allowing a new bloodbath in the Donbass is something we do not intend to do," the envoy hastened to add, referring to the restive Lugansk and Donetsk regions.

The emergency meeting on the Ukraine crisis was held Monday night, after President Putin signed a decree recognizing breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine as independent republics and instructed Russia's defense ministry to deploy peacekeeping troops to the two regions.

Nebenzya stated that the decision came as eastern Ukraine had been on the brink of a new "Ukrainian military adventure".

Donetsk and Lugansk regions were turned into self-proclaimed republics by ethnic Russians in 2014, which triggered violent conflict between the government forces and armed secessionists. 

The conflict worsened following a wave of protests in Ukraine that led to the overthrow of a democratically-elected pro-Russia government, replacing it with a pro-West administration.

Nebenzya warned Western countries to “think twice” and not to worsen the situation in Ukraine.

China calls for restraint

At the UNSC meeting, Beijing called for restraint by "all parties" to avoid further escalation in tensions, while calling for a diplomatic way out.

"At present, all parties concerned must exercise restraint and avoid any action that may fuel tensions,” Chinese ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, said.

“We welcome and encourage every effort for a diplomatic solution and call on all parties concerned to continue dialogue and consultation, and seek reasonable solutions to address each other's concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect," he added.

UN warns of risk of 'major conflict'

The UN political affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, in a statement on Monday voiced “regret” over Russia's peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine, saying it risks having “regional and global repercussions”.

"The risk of major conflict is real and needs to be prevented at all costs," she said, adding that the UN was committed to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within internationally recognized borders.

She further said that negotiations were the only way to address the issue and resolve the conflict.

Turkey criticizes Russia's recognition of Lugansk, Donetsk

Turkey, a NATO member, termed “unacceptable” Russia's recognition of Lugansk and Donetsk regions as independent, saying it amounts to a “clear violation of not only the Minsk agreements but also Ukraine's political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity”.        

"We find Russia's so-called decision to be unacceptable and reject it," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The 2014 Minsk agreements were designed to put an end to the long-running armed conflict between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia secessionists in eastern Ukraine.

"We reiterate once again our commitment to the preservation of Ukraine’s political unity and territorial integrity and invite all concerned parties to act with common sense and to abide by international law," it said.

Earlier, Turkey’s presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said that western sanctions against Russia over the crisis in eastern Ukraine would only delay underlying problems.

"Sanctions against Russia are useless," Ibrahim Kalin told the German newspaper Welt on Sunday, adding it would be better to listen to and understand the strategic concerns of the other side.

Russia and the US-led NATO military alliance have recently been at odds over Ukraine, pushing the two sides to the brink of direct military confrontation.

Western countries have accused Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine by amassing 100,000 troops and armaments near the Ukrainian border.

The US and the European Union have threatened severe sanctions against Kremlin in the event of an attack or invasion of Ukraine.

However, Moscow has vehemently rejected the allegations, saying the military build-up is defensive in nature, slamming NATO over its increased military activity near Russian borders.

In December last year, Moscow asked NATO not to allow Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to join the Western military alliance.

It also urged the alliance to stop its military deployments to Ukraine and to roll back it forces from eastern Europe, demanding legally binding guarantees.

The demands were flatly rejected, with the military bloc saying its membership will remain open to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier warned that the US was deliberately designing a scenario to lure Russia into a war over Ukraine.

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