Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Moscow has not breached the 1994 Budapest MemorandumMaxim Shemetov/ Reuters

Russia's top diplomat has reduced his country's commitments under a key disarmament treaty from six to one – not to attack Ukraine with nuclear weapons – in a comment that is drawing a wave of criticism. In 1994, Russia, the US, Britain and Ukraine signed the so called Budapest Memorandum, which offered assurances to Kiev about its territorial integrity in exchange for it to give up its nuclear arsenal.

The six point text expressly said that all parties committed "to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine", and were to refrain from using force and economic coercion in their relation with the country that had at the time recently become independent.

At a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday 26 January, a reporter implied Russia had come short of those pledges with the annexation of Crimea and conflict in eastern Ukraine. Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov disagreed.

"If you're referring to the Budapest memorandum, we have not violated it," he said according to a translation of his remarks published on the Russian foreign ministry's website. "It contains only one obligation – i.e. not to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. No one has made any threats to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine."

The statement was tweeted by the Russian Embassy in London, accompanied by a photo of the memorandum which showed only its first point.

Many commentators and Kremlin critics were quick to point out the gross inaccuracy.

Here below is the full text of the Memorandum.

Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances, 1994

The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,

Welcoming the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon State,

Taking into account the commitment of Ukraine to eliminate all nuclear weapons from its territory within a specified period of time,

Noting the changes in the world-wide security situation, including the end of the cold war, which have brought about conditions for deep reductions in nuclear forces,

Confirm the following:

1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine;

2. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or

political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;

3. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind;

4. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance to Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear

weapons are used;

5. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm, in the case of Ukraine, their commitment not to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclearweapon State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,

except in the case of an attack on themselves, their territories or dependent territories, their armed forces, or their allies, by such a State in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State;

6. Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America will consult in the event a situation arises that raises a question concerning these commitments.

This Memorandum will become applicable upon signature.

Signed in four copies having equal validity in the Ukrainian, English and Russian languages.

For Ukraine:

(Signed) Leonid D. KUCHMA

For the Russian Federation:

(Signed) Boris N. YELTSIN

For the United Kingdom of Great

Britain and Northern Ireland:

(Signed) John MAJOR

For the United States of America:

(Signed) William J. CLINTON