NEW DELHI: Ukraine on Thursday expressed its dissatisfaction with the position taken by India on the crisis in eastern Europe and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention with Russia to stave off a war.
Speaking hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military operation in support of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukrainian ambassador Igor Polikha told reporters that the Russian leader has “launched a full-scale invasion” and a “war of aggression”.
Referring to India’s statement that it is closely following the development in Ukraine, Polikha said, “We are deeply dissatisfied with this position… What does it mean? When hundreds or thousands are killed, what will happen?”
He contended that India is better placed than other countries to intervene with Russia in view of the special and privileged strategic partnership between New Delhi and Moscow and Modi’s stature as a global leader.
“I don’t know how many world leaders Putin may listen to, but the status of Modiji makes me hopeful that in case of his strong voice, Putin at least should think over [his actions],” he said.
“I think that in this case, your prime minister can address Mr Putin, he can address our president,” he added.
However, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla told a media briefing late on Thursday the Indian side was in close contact with Ukrainian officials, including the ambassador, and was not made aware of any disappointment on the Ukrainian side regarding India’s position.
“Honestly speaking, we have been in touch with many of our diplomatic colleagues. I did not see any disappointment that he had expressed as far as we are concerned,” Shringla said. He added that external affairs minister S Jaishankar was expected to speak with his Ukranian counterpart later in the night.
Polikha said Russian troops, which have also attacked Ukraine from Crimea and Belarus, targeted military airports and installations with bombs and missiles. There were also attacks on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv and deep within Ukrainian territory that resulted in military and civilian casualties, he said.
Noting that Ukraine and India are democratic countries, he contended that New Delhi should back Kyiv, which was “clashing with a totalitarian regime”. He said India is specially placed in this regard as it is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and a “very influential global player” that for many years had a leading role in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and contributed to UN peacekeeping missions.
“At the present moment, we are asking [and] pleading for the support of India, a powerful global player, and in this case of aggression by a totalitarian regime against a democratic state, India should fully assume its global role,” Polikha said.
“We are expecting a much more favourable attitude of the Indian government in this crisis situation. It’s the moment of truth,” he added.
Ukraine would not be satisfied with mere statements as it needs the “absolute support” of friendly countries to stop a war. “We are ready to fight but peace is the best solution. We are asking every partner for support and assistance,” Polikha said, adding this backing could be in the shape of sanctions, humanitarian or military assistance, or even cancellation of bilateral events with Russia.