By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -A United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday on Russia’s troop build-up on Ukraine’s border will be “an opportunity for Russia to explain what it is doing,” a senior U.S. administration official said, as Russia signaled it could seek to stop the public council discussion.
“While I do think there will be some deflection and perhaps some disinformation … there’s also a clear opportunity for Russia to tell the Security Council whether they see a path for diplomacy or are interested in pursuing conflict,” said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Russia has massed around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine while denying it plans to invade. Several rounds of talks have taken place without a breakthrough, but both the United States, the NATO military alliance and Russia have kept the door open to further dialogue.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Thursday asked for the 15-member U.N. Security Council to meet publicly on Monday to discuss Russia’s “threatening behavior” against Ukraine and the build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders and in Belarus.
Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy on Friday rejected Thomas-Greenfield’s comments as “baseless allegations and assumptions.”
“Hopefully fellow UNSC (U.N. Security Council) members will not support this clear PR (public relations) stunt shameful for the reputation of U.N. Security Council,” Polyanskiy said in a Twitter post, signaling that Russia could call a vote in a bid to stop the meeting.
Any Security Council member could call for a vote to block the meeting. A minimum of nine votes are needed to proceed with a meeting and China, Russia, the United States, Britain and France cannot wield their vetoes. U.N. diplomats said any attempt to stop the meeting on Monday would likely be defeated.
“We are confident that there’s broad support across the council for this meeting,” said the U.S. official. A second senior U.S. administration official described the council meeting “as a preventative tool in our diplomatic efforts.”
The U.N. Security Council has met dozens of times over the crisis in Ukraine since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. It is unable to take any action as Russia is one of the council’s five veto powers.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell and Cynthia Osterman)