By Mick Krever, CNN
As pro-Russian unrest flares in eastern Ukraine, a Russian senator took his country’s case to the international stage on CNN Thursday, saying Moscow has a “very different” vision of the situation than the West.
“Of course somebody in Western countries maybe prefer to see just bad grace from Russia,” Andrey Klimov, member of the Russian Federation Council, said. “But the situation is quite different.”
“We are thinking only about peaceful exit from this situation, which now happened unfortunately in Ukraine.”
Pro-Russian protesters are occupying a government building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, demanding more independence from Kiev.
Some are concerned that after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the country may intervene in eastern Ukraine as well.
“Well, first of all, we are looking at this country as our neighbor country,” Klimov said.
In a telling exchange, though, Klimov emphasized the fact that Ukraine – a former Soviet republic – does not have a long history as a sovereign country.
Russia has long advocated non-intervention in sovereign countries, time and again voting against incursions by other countries at the U.N. Security Council.
Pleitgen put that point to Klimov.
The provision of state sovereignty in the U.N. Charter, Pleitgen said, “was put there in large part because Russia and the Soviet Union were invaded so many times by European countries and only managed to push those European countries back with a lot of blood being spilled.”
“Is the Russian political class aware,” he asked, “of the threat that all of this poses to that system of state sovereignty, of national sovereignty, what's going on right now?”
Crimea, Klimov said, was a “unique case.”
“Of course we recognize the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said. “But if we are speaking about today's situation, of course we have to mind the history.”
“The history of Ukraine as a sovereign state is something a little bit above 20 years. Ukraine [has] never been a sovereign state for a long period. And of course this is the problem of [a] young state.”
Russia wants Ukraine to be able to solve its problems on its own, he said, “without any pressure from abroad – including pressure from [the] Western world.”
The “revolution” in Ukraine – as Klimov called it – came as a result of provocation from both the West and Ukrainian politicians, he said.
“Some Western people, including people in the White House, they try to blame Russia but do not want to look at their own stuff.”
“There were a lot of situations in…Maidan Square, including participation in that event, some authorities from America and the European Union,” referring to visits from people like American diplomat Victoria Nuland.
“Our diplomats, our senators, our members of parliament [have] never been there.”
Under Ukraine’s former government, Russia offered natural gas to the country at steep discounts; now, Russian President Vladimir Putin has gone so far as to warn that gas deliveries could be cut.
“This is an old story,” he said. “We have a contract. … But unfortunately, Ukrainian government prefer[s] not to pay according to their obligations. And this is the problem.”
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday sounded the alarm bell for eastern Ukraine, saying that Russia has about 40,000 troops massed on the Russian side of the border – “not training, but ready for combat.”
Klimov again repeated the Russian position that those troops are there simply for standard military exercises.
Pleitgen asked whether it was possible for Ukraine to be a member of the European Union and NATO and still be a “good ally” to Russia.
In response, Klimov questioned the expansion of NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union to include countries closer to Russia’s borders.
“If we are partners, this is not necessary at all.”
And besides, he added, “I do not know any serious politician in the European Union who would like to join the European Union with Ukraine.”