UNITED NATIONS - Russia on Friday defended its decision to send a humanitarian aid convoy into Ukraine without official permission, saying there was sometimes "no chain of command" in Kiev and Moscow was fed up playing games with the Ukrainian authorities.
Speaking to reporters at UN headquarters in New York, Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, also had sharp words about Lithuania, a temporary member of the UN Security Council, accusing it of systematically cutting down Russian UN initiatives with the aid of the United States and Britain.
Lithuania requested an emergency meeting of the 15-nation council on Friday to discuss the latest development in Ukraine as the NATO military alliance said that Russian troops were firing artillery across the border and within Ukraine in a major escalation of military support for pro-Moscow rebels.
"At times it seems there is no clear chain of command in Kiev, because some assurances are given (to Russia) at a very high level and then others do not give the orders which are required ... by the border police to let the (aid) trucks in,"Churkin said. "That game could not continue indefinitely. "We waited long enough and it was time to move," he added.
"And this is what we did." The United States and other Western powers have condemned Russia's decision to send the aid convoy into eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are in control, while Kiev has called it a "direct invasion." In addition, UN chief Ban Ki-moon voiced "deep concern" about the Russian move.
Churkin said it was hypocritical of Western powers to criticise Russia for sending aid to civilians in eastern Ukraine because the West has been demanding similar moves in Syria. "They were demanding an arrangement which would allow humanitarians to provide the assistance without the consent of the Syrian government," he said. "And we cooperated with that. "I don't see how with a straight face they can argue against this move of Russia, especially with the background of discussions with the ICRC (Red Cross) and the Ukrainian authorities," Churkin added.
Asked about Friday's emergency meeting of the Security Council, which was called by Lithuania, Churkin complained about the "indefatigable delegation of Lithuania, who is always torpedoing all productive, constructive initiatives we have had in the Security Council.
"And of course we know about their division of labour," he said. "The US and UK are not far behind." Lithuania's UN ambassador, Raimonda Murmokaite, told reporters that Russia's move was a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty. She also dismissed Churkin's charges.
"The Lithuanian mission discards such allegations pointing to a recurrent scenario regarding Russian drafts," she told Reuters, adding that Moscow "could not be more protective of those illegal (rebel) groups." Churkin also dismissed NATO's allegations about Russia shooting artillery across the border and escalating military support for the rebels. "They have been reporting those things all along (in) the crisis without providing any proof of their allegations," he said.