UNITED NATIONS -- Russian President Vladimir Putin received no support from members of the U.N. Security Council at an emergency meeting Monday night for his actions to bring separatists in eastern Ukraine under Moscow’s control.
The U.S. called his moves a pretext for a further invasion, many members condemned his violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and even close ally China urged diplomacy and a peaceful solution.
Ukraine called for the rare evening session along with the U.S., five European countries and Mexico to condemn Putin’s actions earlier Monday to recognize the independence of the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, scenes of an eight-year war, and order his military to “maintain peace” there.
Russia happens to hold the Security Council’s rotating presidency this month and wanted the meeting to be closed, but diplomats said they agreed to an open session under intense pressure from Western and other members.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, dismissed “as nonsense” Putin’s announcement that Russian troops would be in the separatist area known as Donbas as peacekeepers, saying their presence is “clearly the basis for Russia’s attempt to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine.” She said he gave the world a choice, and it “must not look away” because “history tells us that looking the other way in the face of such hostility will be a far more costly path.”
Putin is testing to see “how far he can push us all,” and all countries must stand up for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine and all countries, Thomas-Greenfield said,
French U.N. Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere said Russia "is choosing the path of challenge and confrontation, despite the relentless efforts for de-escalation over the past weeks and days,” including by French President Emmanuel Macron in conjunction with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“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 urged the Security Council to call on Russia to stop any military action, condemn aggression against a sovereign state and defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and call on Russia to respect its obligations under the U.N. Charter. That is virtually impossible given Russia’s veto power on council actions.
“Russia has brought us to the brink,” Woodward said. “We urge Russia to step back.”
In very brief remarks, Chinese U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun made no mention of Russia’s actions on Monday, saying all parties “must exercise restraint, and avoid any action that may fuel tensions."
Ukraine U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya demanded that Russia cancel its recognition of the independence of the separatist regions, immediately withdraw its “occupation troops” sent there by Putin, and return to negotiations. He called the Security Council “sick” for its past inaction, and urged members to defend 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.”
While Ukraine has the right to self-defense under the U.N. Charter, he said, “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 said “there should be no doubts whatsoever” about this because “it is not February 2014,” when Russia invaded Crimea, which it later annexed, and Ukraine was not prepared. “It is February 2022,” he said.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the United States and its Western allies of egging on Ukraine -- which he said has concentrated a 120,000-strong military contingent along the contact line with pro-Russian separatists in the east -- toward “an armed provocation.”
He accused Ukraine of sharply increasing shelling in residential areas of Luhansk and Donetsk over the past weekend as well as in some Russian towns and villages near the border. “So it has become clear that Donbas is on the brink of a new Ukrainian military adventure as was already the case in 2014 and 2015,” he said, explaining that is why Putin made the announcements earlier Monday.
The separatist authorities said Monday that at least four civilians were killed by Ukrainian shelling over the past 24 hours, and several others were wounded. Ukraine’s military said two Ukrainian soldiers were killed over the weekend, and another serviceman was wounded Monday. Ukrainian military spokesman Pavlo Kovalchyuk insisted that Ukrainian forces weren’t returning fire.
“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 urged the United States and other Western nations “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, alluding to future serious military action.
Albanian U.N. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha called what Russia did Monday a repetition of what Moscow did in Georgia in 2008 when it illegally occupied two regions and in Crimea in 2014, “meaning an aggression by fabrication of phantom republics.”
“Who is next?,” he asked, saying “every U.N. member state should be alarmed."
Kenyan U.N. Ambassador Martin Kimani said the Ukraine crisis echoes the independence of every country in Africa which inherited borders drawn by colonial powers that didn’t adhere to historical, cultural and linguistic bonds. But instead of waging wars, he said, African nations accepted the borders and “chose to look forward” and follow the U.N. Charter and the rules of the former Organization of African Unity.
Kimani accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity and said its recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states can’t be justified “when there are multiple diplomatic tracks available and underway that have the ability to offer peaceful solutions.”