Russia should have its status as a permanent member of the United Nations security council rescinded because it is "violating all the rules" of the organisation's charter, Ukraine's most senior diplomat in Britain has said.
The Russian Federation will take over as president of the security council in September in line with the UN rota system. Presidency allows the country to set the council's agenda, submit statements for approval and oversee responses to crises when they occur. Russia is one of five permanent members of the council, alongside China, France, the US and the UK.
But Russia is alleged to be deeply involved in an illegal covert at war with Ukraine, something it denies. Western intelligence and various media reports suggest the Kremlin is supplying arms, equipment and personnel to pro-Russian separatist groups in war-torn eastern Ukraine. Russia openly annexed Crimea after the fall of the Kremlin-allied Yanukovych government in early 2014.
"If the Russian Federation, for instance, is involved in a direct military conflict with another country, and is violating all the rules of the charter of the United Nations, I think the participation of the Russian Federation in the security council should be rescinded," Ihor Kyzym, the chargé d'affaires at the Ukrainian embassy in London and the head of the diplomatic mission while a new ambassador is appointed, told IBTimes UK. "At least [as] a permanent member. Maybe it would be reasonable that Russia itself would refuse to be president of the security council, to be fair at least."
Kyzym, who was previously the head of the Nato division in the Ukrainian foreign ministry, said Ukraine would like reform of the veto system because it is open to abuse. Russia vetoed a UN investigation into the downing of MH17, a passenger airliner, over eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists in which 298 people died. Kyzym said other security council members should work together to put pressure on Russia to accept reforms "if it wants to be considered as a world leader" – else risk further isolation.
'Crimea will be Ukrainian'
Thousands have died since the outbreak of the Ukraine war in 2014, including many civilians. The former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by mass protests in which several people died after he eschewed closer trading ties with the European Union (EU) in favour of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The EEU is a project by the Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is trying to rebuild the Kremlin's former sphere of influence by creating an alternative to the EU that will attract former Soviet states.
When Yanukovych fled, and an interim government formed ahead of fresh elections for the Ukrainian parliament, Putin denounced it as a fascist junta and invaded Crimea ostensibly to protect Russian interests in the area, namely its only warm-water naval base. Eastern Ukraine and Crimea are also home to millions of ethnic Russians. "Crimea will be Ukrainian, I am sure about that," Kyzym said. "But it takes time."
Since the outbreak of violence, several areas in east Ukraine have fallen to the pro-Russian rebels, including Donetsk and Luhansk. Two fragile agreements signed in Minsk, the most recent in February 2015, have lessened the fighting. But skirmishes continue to break out in hotspots. Kyzym insists that Ukraine is upholding its end of the Minsk deals, which includes pulling back heavy artillery from the front lines, but that Russia is not and continues to support rebels in their bid to take more territory. The separatists accuse Kiev forces of attacking them first, but Ukraine say they only respond and are defending territory lest they lose more.
While work towards peace continues, Nato is supporting Ukrainian forces with training and defensive military equipment. Kyzym said this help is appreciated, but Ukraine could always use more. In particular, he said Kiev wants surveillance drones – which he said Russia is supplying to the separatists – so that Ukrainian soldiers can better understand enemy positions on the front line.
Kyzym does not believe the Minsk deals are dead and remains optimistic for peace. He said the Kiev government is willing to get around the table with those in control of separatist areas, but only after free and fair elections have been held and representatives are chosen by the people – and not at the end of a Russian gun. He insists that peace lies in Russia's hands, and will only come about when the Kremlin stops fuelling the conflict with arms and uses its influence to stop the separatists fighting. But he fears that Russia, which has amassed forces at its border with Ukraine, is determined to go further.
"Russia is not limited by Donetsk or Crimea, or the whole of Ukraine. It's the whole of Ukraine Russia needs. Russia needs to have Ukraine under its influence, first and foremost. Russia needs Ukraine not to be democratic. Because when you have a totalitarian regime, it's easy to control it. If you have a democratic country, it's not possible to impose the kind of rules that Russia has, strict ones.
"I grew up in the Soviet Union. After that, when we looked at old documents, it was terrible for me to know what was going on to Ukraine in the Soviet Union [...] We have another chance for our population, for our nation, and I think we want this opportunity to build a new country, a European country in a sense, its mentality. A style of life, shall we say."
Kyzym, who said Ukraine is already working towards EU membership by building better democratic and economic institutions, added: "It seems to me that Russia is afraid to have such an example of a democratic country on its border."
The diplomat said he wants to see visa rules relaxed for Ukrainians wishing to travel to the EU to "let people to to see for themselves" that a western model for society is better than a Russian one.
"Let's allow our people to be more familiar with those worlds, to be more familiar with this life," he said. "And after that they [understand] that it's better to have democracy in Ukraine. It's better to leave out corruption in Ukraine."
Nato and 'Russian propaganda'
In the UK, the opposition Labour party is holding a leadership election. The frontrunner, Jeremy Corbyn, has blamed Nato's eastward expansion for provoking Russia into its invasion of eastern Ukraine, which he also condemns. Corbyn wants to withdraw the UK from Nato. While Kyzym would not comment on the Labour leadership election, he disputed the claim that Nato had provoked Russia and blamed "Russian propaganda" for promoting this idea. He said that before the invasion of Crimea, Ukraine had not aspired to join Nato.
"What has changed since that?" he said. "Who has provoked the Russian Federation to occupy Ukrainian territory? At that time, the Ukraine military doctrine excluded [the possibility of] Ukraine in Nato. Now it has changed... Everybody understands that if you're a member of Nato, Russia is never allowed to do this."
He added: "Was Nato so provocative to allow the Russian Federation to occupy territory of Georgia? To create the so-called new states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia? I don't think this is the right position. The problem is Russia itself. And I hope it will be a good chance for Russia to rethink its position... We should understand, Russia is now a threat to security, to European security, to [global] security, if Russia doesn't change its mentality, its influence."