The Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily A. Nebenzya, rejected the criticism, telling fellow ambassadors that the Russian military actions in Ukraine were meant to protect the Donbas, the region in the east where Russia-backed separatists have been fighting for eight years. He accused the United States and its allies of “shamelessly inundating” Ukraine with weapons and inciting Ukrainians to fight.
“The Western countries have created a bubble that could not but pop,” Mr. Nebenzya said.
Later Monday, in a throwback to Cold War-era intrigue, Mr. Nebenzya disclosed to journalists that U.S. officials had ordered the expulsion of 12 diplomats from Russia’s U.N. Mission in New York. “They just visited Russia’s mission and delivered a note to us,” he said.
Mr. Nebenzya called the order a “gross violation” of responsibilities by the United States as host of the 193-member United Nations.
Olivia Dalton, a spokeswoman for the United States Mission, confirmed the expulsion order in a Twitter post, describing the Russian diplomats as “intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who have abused their privileges of residency in the U.S. by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
The flow of Ukrainian refugees to neighbors since the Russian invasion has created backups at border crossings with Poland and Moldova. The United Nations refugee agency, which reported that 500,000 Ukrainians have fled so far, said it was expecting as many as four million to follow.
At least 36,000 Ukrainians have entered Moldova, a nation of 2.6 million that is among the poorest in Europe. The tiny country is better known for its rapid depopulation, not its appeal to refugees. And yet in recent days, it has been putting Ukrainians up at wineries, schools, a former coronavirus ward and even the home of a lawmaker.
“This is unprecedented, totally unprecedented,” said the lawmaker, Dumitru Alaiba, who was hosting a refugee from Odessa. “It’s magical what we see in terms of solidarity.”
Valerie Hopkins reported from Kyiv, Steven Erlangerfrom Brussels and Michael Schwirtz from Odessa, Ukraine. Reporting was contributed by Anton Troianovski from Moscow, Farnaz Fassihi from New York and Aurelien Breeden from Paris.