At an emergency meeting Monday night, Russian President Vladimir Putin received no support from members of the United Nations Security Council for his efforts in eastern Ukraine to put rebels under Moscow’s authority.
Many members decried his breach of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and even close partner China advocated negotiation and a peaceful resolution.
Ukraine, the United States, five European countries, and Mexico convened the rare evening session to condemn Putin’s decision earlier Monday to recognize the independence of the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, which have been at odds for eight years, and order his military to “maintain peace” there.
Russia, which has the rotating chair of the Security Council this month, had hoped for a closed session, but diplomats said they consented to an open session under tremendous pressure from Western and other members.
The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, dismissed Putin’s announcement that Russian troops would be stationed as peacekeepers in the separatist Donbas region as “nonsense,” saying their presence is “clearly the basis for Russia’s attempt to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine.” He handed the world an option, she added, and the world “must not look away” because “history shows us that looking the other way in the face of such hatred would be a much more costly route.”
Putin is testing “how far he can push us all,” and all nations must stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, as well as the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of other countries. According to Thomas-Greenfield,
Despite the “constant efforts for de-escalation over the last weeks and days,” notably by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Nicolas De Riviere stated Russia “is choosing the road of challenge and conflict.”
“We will continue these efforts and call on Russia to match its words with deeds when it claims to be in favor of dialogue and to reverse the decision to recognize the separatist entities,” he said.
British U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward said there are reports of Russian troops and tanks now entering Donetsk and Luhansk and she warned that “an invasion of Ukraine unleashes the forces of war, death, and destruction on the people of Ukraine.”
She encouraged the Security Council to urge Russia to halt any military action, condemn the aggression against a sovereign state, and preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity, as well as to remind Russia of its UN Charter commitments. Given Russia’s veto authority over council decisions, this is essentially impossible.
“Russia has brought us to the brink,” Woodward said. “We urge Russia to step back.”
In a short statement, Chinese U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said all parties “must show patience, and avoid any action that may exacerbate tensions,” but made no mention of Russia’s activities on Monday.
Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s UN Ambassador, requested that Russia revoke its recognition of the separatist areas’ independence, withdraw Putin’s “occupation forces,” and return to dialogue. He slammed the UN Security Council for its silence in the past and asked members to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Despite Putin’s actions, he said, “The internationally recognized borders of Ukraine have been and will remain unchangeable regardless of any statements and actions by the Russian Federation.”
According to him, while Ukraine has the right to self-defense under the United Nations Charter, “We are committed to a peaceful and diplomatic path and we will stay firmly on it. 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.”
He stated that “there should be no reservations whatsoever” since “it is not February 2014,” when Russia attacked and occupied Crimea, and Ukraine was unprepared. He stated, “It is February 2022.”
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the US and its Western allies of encouraging Ukraine to engage in “an armed provocation” by stationing a 120,000-strong military presence at the contact line with pro-Russian rebels in the east.
He accused Ukraine of ramping up shelling in Luhansk and Donetsk residential districts, as well as certain Russian towns and villages close the border, during the weekend. “As a result, it has become evident that Donbas is on the verge of a new Ukrainian military adventure,” he added, explaining why Putin made the comments earlier Monday.
At least four civilians were murdered and numerous more were injured by Ukrainian bombardment in the last 24 hours, according to rebel officials. Two Ukrainian troops were killed over the weekend, according to the Ukrainian military, while another serviceman was wounded on Monday. Pavlo Kovalchyuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military, emphasized that Ukrainian soldiers were not firing back.
“We remain open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution,” Nebenzia said. “However, allowing a new bloodbath in the Donbas is something we do not intend to do.”
He encouraged the US and other Western countries to take action “to think twice, to set emotions to one side, and not to make the situation worse.”
“No one other than you can hold back the militaristic plans of Kyiv and force it to stop the shelling against the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics which in these new conditions could have extremely dangerous consequences,” Nebenzia said, implying that major military action will be taken in the future.
Russia’s actions in Georgia in 2008, when it unlawfully invaded two provinces, and in Crimea in 2014, according to Albanian U.N. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha, “mean an invasion via the manufacture of phantom republics.”
“Who’s next?” he wondered, adding that “every United Nations member state should be terrified.”
The Ukraine situation, according to Kenyan U.N. Ambassador Martin Kimani, mirrors the independence of every African country that inherited borders created by colonial powers that ignored historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. Rather of fighting, he added, African countries accepted the borders and “choose to look ahead” by adhering to the United Nations Charter and the regulations of the defunct Organization of African Unity.
Russian recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk as separate nations, according to Kimani, violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity “when there are multiple diplomatic tracks available and underway that have the ability to offer peaceful solutions.”