BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei’s foreign ministry issued a statement Saturday expressing concern over the “escalation of tension and military action” in Ukraine, after Russia launched an invasion of its neighbour on Thursday.

The sultanate said it “condemns any violation of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of any country,” although it stopped short of mentioning Russia by name.

“Brunei Darussalam calls on all parties directly involved to de-escalate tensions and refrain from acts that may aggravate the situation further, settle all differences by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force,” the foreign ministry said.

The statement echoed language used by Malaysia and Indonesia. Within ASEAN, only Singapore explicitly called out Moscow and promised sanctions, while most Southeast Asian countries took pains to adopt a more neutral stance.

Myanmar was the lone ASEAN member who said Russian action was “justified”. Russia is a major arms supplier to Myanmar, and one of the junta’s few allies after last year’s military coup.

The ASEAN bloc, chaired by Cambodia this year, also released a short statement on Sunday expressing concern over “armed hostilities”, but stopped short of condemning Moscow’s move.

People who have fled the Russian invasion in Ukraine wait to board a bus bound for a refugee centre established in Przemysl, in Medyka, Poland, Feb 28, 2022. Photo: Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, sending troops into the ex-Soviet nation from three fronts and firing missiles on several locations near the capital, Kyiv, in a broad attack that has drawn deep condemnation from world leaders.

The civilian death toll now stands at 352 people, including 14 children, Ukraine’s health ministry said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that Ukraine is an illegitimate country that exists on land that is historically and rightfully Russian.

Putin is also committed to preventing the deepening cooperation between the West and Ukraine, which has declared interest in joining NATO and the European Union.

Western countries have moved to impose harsh sanctions on Moscow and Russian business interests, as the country faces deepening isolation and economic turmoil.

The United Nations General Assembly will vote this week on a draft resolution demanding Russian troops stop fighting and withdraw from Ukraine.

Unlike the UN Security Council, no country has veto power in the General Assembly, and the resolution is expected to pass with two-thirds support.