UNITED NATIONS: Russia faced sharp criticism from several members of the 15-nation UN Security Council over its move to formally recognize breakaway regions in Ukraine’s east as independent states and sending troops it characterizes as “peacekeepers.
Ahead of Monday evening’s emergency session, A UN spokesman said that Secretary-General was “greatly concerned” by Russia’s actions with regard to the status of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
In a statement issued by Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, the UN chief calls for “the peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, in accordance with the Minsk agreements, as endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2202 (2015).” Moreover, he said that Guterres considers Russia’s decision to be “a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.
Stung by criticism at the Security Council meeting, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, accused the Council in aggregate of misunderstanding the conflict. “Most of you did not find any place for the nearly 4 million residents of Donbas,” he said, referring to the region of eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, who requested the meeting, offered a defiant statement despite his country being surrounded by more than 150,000 Russian troops.
“We are on our land. We are not afraid of anything or anyone. We owe nothing to anyone and we will not give away anything to anyone,” Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said. “There should be no doubt whatsoever.”
Some African nations, including Kenya and Ghana, criticized the Russian intervention and compared it to colonial aggression from centuries past.
The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, also said Russia’s aggression belonged to another era. “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin wants the world to travel back in time to a time before the United Nations — to a time when empires ruled the world,” she said. “Colleagues, President Putin is testing our international system.
On its part, China called for restraint by “all sides” to avoid further escalation in the Ukraine crisis, urging a diplomatic solution.
“All parties concerned must exercise restraint and avoid any action that may fuel tensions. We welcome and encourage every effort for a diplomatic solution,” said Zhang Jun, China’s UN ambassador.
Opening the Security Council meeting with “great concern and sadness”, the UN political chief highlighted the “unfolding dangerous situation in and around Ukraine,” where tensions have spiked.
“The risk of major conflict is real and needs to be prevented at all costs,” Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, said.
“We also regret the order today to deploy Russian troops into Eastern Ukraine, reportedly on a ‘peacekeeping mission”, she added, recalling that the developments followed the decision to order “a mass evacuation of civilian residents of Donetsk and Luhansk into the Russian Federation.”
Ms DiCarlo also raised concern over escalating shelling across the contact line, which has reportedly led to a number of casualties.
She cited the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in counting 3,231 ceasefire violations in the Donbas area from February 18-20: 1,073 ceasefire violations, including 926 explosions in the Luhansk region, and 2,158 ceasefire violations, including 1,100 explosions, in the Donetsk region.
“We remind all involved of their responsibilities under international humanitarian law and human rights law”, underscored the senior UN official.
Although the UN is not able to verify the numerous claims made by various actors, she expressed anxiety over reports of civilian casualties, the targeting of critical civilian infrastructure, and ongoing evacuations.
The UN political chief said that over the past few weeks, key actors have been engaged in “intense diplomatic efforts” to avert a new eruption of conflict in the heart of Europe.
Ms DiCarlo reiterated the UN’s staunch commitment to Ukraine – a founding member of the United Nations – as it continues to pursue the democratic reform agenda 30 years after independence.
After “a number of very emotional statements, categorical assessments, and far-reaching conclusions”, Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador, said he would not react but instead concentrate on “how to avoid war.”
He informed the Member States that in accordance with agreements “signed today by Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics … the functions of maintaining peace in their territories will be carried out by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”.
Ambassador Nebenzya also urged Western colleagues to “come to their senses, put aside their emotions and not make the situation worse”.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador, called President Putin’s move the basis for Russia to create a pretext to further invade Ukraine, the consequences of which would be felt “far beyond Ukraine’s borders”.
She said the Putin is “testing our resolve” and wants to “demonstrate that through force, he can make a farce of the UN”.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield said that the US would take further measures to hold Russia accountable for this “clear violation of international law”, stressing that the response will be “swift and severe” should Russia further invade Ukraine.