Service members of pro-Russian troops in uniforms without insignia gather in the separatist-controlled settlement of Mykolaivka (Nikolaevka), as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in the Donetsk region. (REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations speaks during a special session of the General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters on on February 28, 2022 in New York City.

Russia seeks to save lives in the Donbass and punish those responsible for eight years of genocide and atrocities, Moscow’s envoy to the UN Vasily Nebenzia told the General Assembly during a session called to denounce the invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian military launched an attack on its neighbour on Thursday of last week. 

“Occupation of Ukraine is not part of our plans. The purpose of this special operation is to protect people, who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime for the past eight years. This is why it’s necessary to demilitarize and de-nazify Ukraine,” Nebenzia said.

As one example of “ghastly crimes” committed by the government in Kiev, the Russian envoy cited the murder of people protesting the US-backed coup in Kiev, when 40 people were burned alive in a building in Odessa. Moscow is seeking to bring to justice anyone who committed such atrocities, “including Russian citizens,” Nebenzia said.

Russia is defending itself from a “regime” which “aspires to gain access to nuclear weapons,” the UN envoy added, noting the statement of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to that effect at the Munich Security Conference on February 18.