The operations in Ukraine mark a “regional conflict” and all other countries, including India, should continue to have normal relations with Moscow, Andrey A Klimov, an influential member of the upper house of the Russian Federation’s Parliament, and the head of the ruling United Russia party’s international affairs section, said Thursday.
“India is a great democratic state with a long democratic tradition. It is an independent state. Of course, we would like to have India, as we had in our past, as our strategic partner and friend, partner of the state, and a friend of our people. So we look at our relationship with India in such a way,” said Klimov in a phone interview from Moscow to The Indian Express hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We respect India as a sovereign state. We don’t want to involve anybody else in this conflict, it is a regional conflict. And it is not necessary (for others to be involved in this). The best thing for the rest of the world is to continue normal relations with Russia because it is not fruitful and very dangerous to increase the regional conflict into a global one,” Klimov said.
Asked to comment on the signal of support from China for the Russian military operation, and Delhi’s tensions with Beijing at the Line of Actual Control, Klimov, considered close to the Kremlin, said: “This (conflict) is not about China and Russia, this is about Russia and our neighbours on the western borders of my country. The position of China is the position of China, the same for India, but that is not for changes in other parts of the world…When, for example, people in Beijing, they speak about understanding the Russian position, this is their vision of the situation”.
Klimov said Russia’s own national interests were primary. “First, territory — to protect the people of the Russian Federation on the territory of the Russian Federation; second, to give us the possibility to increase our economy, the Russian economy. But look, if people like (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskyy declare the intention to have a nuclear weapon against Russia, it’s really crossing a red line, and we cannot just look and wait for when they can realise that very, very dangerous plan, not just for us, for the rest of the world,” said the 67-year-old parliamentarian, who is also the deputy chair of the upper house’s committee on international affairs.
Klimov said Russia had good relations with all countries in the world, and that it was some parts of Europe and North America that were building “a fortress against the rest of the world because they are the successors of colonialists and imperialists”.
He accused US President Joe Biden of “arranging and realising” a “coup” in Ukraine in 2014 when he was vice-president in the Obama Administration, and said since then, the country had been in the grip of “pro-American politicians, pro-American bureaucrats, pro-American military people, and some others, radicals”.
The events of 2014 had led to the “degradation” of Ukraine’s economy, extremism, and “non- stop civil war” in the eastern parts of the country, Klimov said. “And the aim of our decisions from the middle of February has been to protect civilians in the Luhansk and Donetsk republics.”
He denied Russia was planning regime change in Ukraine. “Look, we do not want to have any kind of invasion, or interference in other states. This is not our job. And this is not our method. This is the method of Washington and some others. And it is the hands of Ukrainian people to build their own political system, according to their own laws by or through their own politicians, elected by their people,” he said.
He asserted the occupation of Ukraine was not on Russia’s agenda. Asked how the conflict could now be scaled down and resolved, he indicated that Russia’s first demand would be that Ukraine put in place a federal system.
“We are looking for the beginning of negotiations between Kiev, Lugansk and Donetsk, then we ready for continuing our dialogue with Western countries, members of NATO, and the US in particular peaceful coexistence in Europe. We are ready to continue that dialogue but in a very constructive way, not blah, blah, blah.”
He said Russia would also continue to provide a “humanitarian umbrella” to Russians in these territories against attacks from “extremists, soldiers of fortune” and some Ukrainian troops, “which prefer to kill Ukrainians, than to build their own country the proper way…they have ruined their own country, Russia did not do it”.
Asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat that any intervention by outside forces in the conflict would invite “consequences” of the kind the world had not seen before, Klimov said it was not a threat.
“It means that the Russian state is really a powerful state. So we do not want to have any kind of jokes or any kind of attempts at intervention to Russia from any side. So it is about how serious we are. This is not a threat for the rest. It is a kind of explanation of reality”
First published in The Indian Express