Ben Aris in Moscow -
Russian President Vladimir Putin lambasted the West in a speech to assembled diplomats on July 1, although he stopped short of making new military threats against Ukraine as Kyiv resumed its antiterrorism operation in the east of the country.
The Russian rhetoric is becoming somewhat repetitive as Putin laid out his position regarding the West's role in Ukraine. However, the message was stated more clearly than usual following on from a failed attempt to find a negotiated diplomatic solution. The Russian president spoke following a four way conversation with leaders from Ukraine, France and Germany in a last ditch attempt to halt military operations on June 30.
However, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko rebuffed Russia's offers to allow OSCE monitors to mediate amongst other Russian compromises and ordered a full scale military assault on the rebel strongholds on July 1. Putin went on to squarely lay the responsibility for the violence at the Ukrainian president's feet.
"Unfortunately President Poroshenko took the decision to restart military operations and we - I mean myself and my European colleagues - could not convince him that the road to stable, strong and long-lasting peace does not lie through war," Putin told the assembled ambassadors in Moscow. "Up until now Petro Alexeyevich [Poroshenko] was not directly linked to the order to start military operations, but now he has taken on this responsibility fully, not only militarily but also politically."
The Russian president also turned his ire on the West. "We must understand clearly that the developments, provoked in Ukraine, are a concentrated manifestation of the notorious policy of containment," he said, claiming this policy is rooted "deeply in history."
"Apparently and regrettably, it continued after the end of the Cold War," he added. The sanctions introduced against Russia are an instance of "blackmail" and a manifestation of "unilateral policy", Putin said. Criticism of the "unipolar world order" led by the US, and the need to move to a multipolar world regulated by international law has been a regular theme amongst Russian officials in recent months.
"We have been saying all along that sanctions are applied in compliance with Article 7 of the UN Charter. Or they are not sanctions in terms of international law, but something else, a sort of an instrument of unilateral policy," Putin insisted. "What else can it be, if not blackmail?" he asked, alluding to the $9bn fine the US imposed on BNP Paribas after the French government defied pressure to cancel a deal to sell Russia a Mistral warship for several billion dollars.
"We are aware of the pressure our American partners are putting on France in order to derail Mistral ship deliveries to Russia. We also know they made it understood that if Mistral ships are not delivered to us, sanctions will be lifted from the banks step-by-step, or, at least, will be minimized," Putin said.
Putin has been careful to frame all of Russia's actions in the Ukraine crisis inside what the Kremlin sees as the framework of "international law". At the same time, the Russian president is consciously attempting to frame US actions as outside. This latter line may not resonate in the West, but it clearly has some support in other emerging markets.
Putin said: "We often see international law not working, the elementary norms of decency disregarded and the principle of all-permissiveness triumphing," he said. "Ukraine is an example of this … We support the supremacy of international law with the United Nations preserving a leading role," he continued. "International law must apply to everyone rather than be selectively applied to serve the interests of certain countries or groups of countries."
Putin's words illustrate that the stand-off in Ukraine is increasingly turning into a old school clash of ideologies and struggle for global influence. "As to different international formats - if we are given the role of bystanders, who do not have a final say on key issues, which are of vital interest for us. Then these formats are not interesting for us," the president declared.
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