Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia has accused his Russian counterpart of making “false” and “strange” arguments to justify the build-up of Russian troops on the country’s border.
The comments are in response to a rare press conference held by Russia’s ambassador to Australia Dr Alexey Pavlovsky last Friday, where he said the troops were “not a threat” but a “warning” to Ukraine.
The massing of more than 100,000 Russian troops near the division between the two countries has sparked fears of a potential invasion, despite repeated denials from Moscow.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia Volodymyr Shalkivskyi released a statement on Sunday disputing his Russian counterpart’s assessment of the situation.
“The Russian Ambassador falsely portrays his country as a victim of the Western propaganda and the Russian aggressive actions as a forced response to the alleged aggressive intentions of Ukraine and our international partners,” he said.
“In fact, this is Russia who violates norms of the international law and threatens its neighbours.”
During his press conference last Friday - an unusual public intervention for a diplomatic official - Mr Pavlovsky defended Russia’s actions, claiming it’s not an aggressor as troops remain within Russian territory.
“Australians definitely are entitled to a more meaningful understanding of the situation than comic book style propaganda,” he told reporters.
He said the build-up of troops was aimed to ensure Ukraine did not “try any reckless military adventures” and not to interpret support from the West as a “carte blanche [complete freedom] to do crazy things”.
"When the Western countries now, including Australia, are expressing their support ... they embolden Kyiv to continue their line of sabotage," he said.
"We think that such expressions of support are very dangerous because they lead to provocations, they lead to war."
Mr Shalkivskyi said the Russian ambassador's assertions were a “false justification” of attempts to “blackmail the West and change Ukraine’s pro-European course”.
He accused Russia of seeking to destabilise his country, including using “hybrid warfare tactics such as cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns”.
The Kremlin has repeatedly raised concerns over the presence of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops near its borders and put forward security demands to Washington and the US-led military alliance.
They include a guarantee that NATO will not admit new members, in particular Ukraine, and that the United States will not establish new military bases in ex-Soviet countries.
Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky has also issued a plea to avoid stirring "panic" over the massive Russian military build-up on the border.
In his statement, Mr Shalkivsky said the Ukraine had “every right to choose its foreign policy priorities and join any alliances it finds necessary”.
Dr Alexey D. Muraviev, an associate professor of National Security and Strategic Studies at Curtin University, told SBS News last week that Russia was not hiding its strategic agenda.
“Normally media-shy Russia diplomats come out of the shadow in times when the situation is getting really serious and their mission is to prepare background for the potential fallout from an announcement made by Moscow,” he told SBS News.
“The Russian ambassador here does not have a tradition or a practice for engaging in regular media contacts on the level that we have seen.”
new and "devastating" economic sanctions against Russia, as Washington and its NATO allies step up efforts to deter any invasion of Ukraine.
Australian Finance Minister Simon Birmingham on Sunday said Australia “will not hesitate” to also impose sanctions against Russia amid tensions over the military build-up.