Vassily Nebenzia, permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, spoke to BBC’s Stephen Sackur to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In a fierce interview, Nebenzia was asked if he was “worried” about Russia’s “diplomatic and economic isolation”, before being accused of having for friends only “four dictatorships”, with even China diluting its support. The ambassador denied the suggestions before asserting the West was “losing strategically” in the war and that European Union sanctions simply “lost the West leverage on Russia”.
Mr Sackur, host of HARDtalk on BBC News, said: “Do you worry about Russia’s diplomatic isolation and economic isolation right now?
“You only have the active support of your military invasion from Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Eritrea. Four dictatorships.
“Even China, which is supposed to be your friend, says that Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected. You’re out of friends!”
Nebenzia, who was speaking to the BBC from New York, looked disgruntled with the line of questioning.
He said: “I do not think this assessment is right. I’m not sure that your attempts to isolate Russia succeeded.
“I think that the West maybe made some technical gains but it is losing strategically.
“One thing that is a clear outcome of those sanctions that the West introduced is that you lost practically any leverage on Russia at all.
“You know President Putin, even before this conflict, he was saying that the West can introduce all the sanctions they want. We had no illusions before and we have no illusions now.”
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China initially remained quiet on the conflict in Ukraine, apparently reluctant to call it a war, but have since made a U-turn and called for Russia to respect Ukrainian territory.
However, it has repeatedly blamed the US and NATO’s expansion towards Russia as a reason for the invasion, supporting Vladimir Putin to that end.
Nonetheless, Western sanctions have caused difficulty for China as the nation looks to step back in its supporting role.
Earlier this week, Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, was forced to suspend cross-border transactions in the Chinese yuan currency.
Though no official reason was given for the suspension, Stanislav Mashagin, from the investment company Infrastructure of Russia, said that Chinese banks were afraid to circumvent Western sanctions on the Russian bank for fear of facing fines from the US.
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And Russia’s state news agency RIA reported that Chinese multinational corporation Huawei had started closing stores in Russia due to shortages.
Only 15 out of 19 official stores in the country continue to operate after the closure of outlets in Moscow and the cities of Novokuznetsk, Ufa, and Rostov-on-Don.
In March, major Chinese electronics manufacturers, including Huawei, significantly reduced shipments to Russia due to the collapse of the ruble and Western sanctions.
An ex-Huawei executive was quoted as saying: “It’s very risky to work in Russia right now.”