UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Wednesday implored Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war in Ukraine ‘in the name of humanity’, after the Russian leader announced a military operation in eastern part of Ukraine.
“President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine, give peace a chance,” the UN chief urged at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the 15-member body’s second late night session this week.
The televised announcement came as the Council members were calling for de-escalation of the conflict. The Council met in a hastily arranged session hours after Russia said that rebels in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military assistance, an announcement that Western diplomats said was a clear indication that Moscow was laying the groundwork for war.
“If indeed an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart: President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died,” the UN chief told the council.
“It is too late to call for de-escalation,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said as he repeatedly said that President Putin had called to war. He asked Russia’s Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, who is the president of the Security Council for the month of February, to give up his position.
After Ukrainian ambassador’ remarks, Nebenzya said it was not a “war” that President Putin had declared but a “special military operation in the Donbass.”
“For you those living in Donbass are simply pawns in a geopolitical game focused on weakening Russia,” he told Security Council members, denying that Russia had conducted false flags operations in the Donbass.
During his main speech, which preceded the one from the Ukrainian ambassador, Nebenzya said, “We don’t know all the details today” about the special military operation in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, a Western diplomat said that a resolution is in the works that would declare that Russia is violating the U.N. Charter, international law, and a 2015 council resolution on Ukraine. The resolution would also urge Russia to come back into compliance immediately, he said, but the mov is bound to fail.
The resolution will not be adopted by the council as Russia is a veto power – along with the United States, France, Britain and China – but it gives Washington and its allies a chance to show that Moscow is internationally isolated over its actions on Ukraine.
“We work on the resolution in the Security Council. I hope we can move to action in the next hours or days, … and if we cannot succeed in the Security Council we’ll go right away to the General Assembly,” the diplomat added.
Tensions have been building over US accusations that Russia has deployed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders and is ready to invade. Russia has denied it wants to invade Ukraine and accuses Washington and its allies of hysteria.
President Putin has recognised the independence of two Moscow-backed separatist regions of eastern Ukraine and has ordered the deployment of Russian troops there to “keep the peace”. Washington and its allies have responded with a series of sanctions.
“The draft will make it very clear that Russia is not in compliance with the UN charter, that Russia is not in compliance with international law, with resolution 2202 that endorses the Minsk agreement,” the diplomat said.
“We will certainly urge Russia to get back to compliance immediately,” the diplomat said. “We don’t believe this would jeopardize the possibility to resume talks and negotiations as soon as possible.”
The moves at the United Nations appear set to mirror what happened in 2014 after Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The Security Council voted on a US-drafted resolution opposing a referendum on the status of Crimea and urging countries not to recognise it. It received 13 votes in favour, China abstained, and Russia cast a veto.
The 193-member UN General Assembly then adopted a resolution declaring the referendum invalid. It received 100 votes in favour, 11 against and 58 abstentions, while two dozen countries didn’t vote.
Earlier Wednesday, diplomats from dozens of countries took the floor at the U.N. General Assembly to deplore Russia’s actions toward the country and plead for diplomacy.
Russia and ally Syria defended Moscow’s moves.
Echoing a narrative being broadcast to Russians at home, Russian Ambassador Nebenzia portrayed his country as responding to the plight of beleaguered people in the breakaway areas. Russia claims Ukraine is engaging in violence and oppression, which Ukraine denies.
“We urge you today to focus on reining in Kyiv,” Nebenzia said.
Syria accused the West of using the assembly to pressure Moscow.
“The Ukrainian crisis was created by the Western states, led by the United States, to divide people and to undermine Russian security,” Ambassador Bassam al-Sabbagh said.
Meeting a day after Western powers and some other countries imposed new sanctions on Russia, the 193-member General Assembly didn’t take any collective action. But the comments from nearly 70 nations, with more scheduled for Monday, represented the broadest forum of global sentiment since the crisis dramatically escalated this week.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba implored countries to use tough economic sanctions, strong messages and “active diplomacy” to get Russia to back off. A lackluster response would jeopardize not only Ukraine but the concept of international law and global security, he warned.
“We need to use this last chance for action and stop Russia where it is,” Kuleba said.