- The meet had just begun as an 11th hour effort to dissuade Russia from sending troops into Ukraine
- Diplomats at the UN headquarters were making pleas for Russia to back off
- But just then, Russian President Putin went on television to announce a military operation
“It's too late, my dear colleagues," was what Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the emergency UN Security Council meeting, which had just begun as an eleventh-hour effort to dissuade Russia from sending troops into Ukraine. It was when the diplomats at the UN headquarters were making pleas for Russia to back off, Russian President Vladimir Putin went on television in his homeland to announce a military operation that he said was intended to protect civilians in Ukraine.
Not just an announcement of war, Putin warned other countries that any effort to interfere with the Russian operation would lead to “consequences they have never seen.”
The UN Security Council gathered Wednesday night, hours after Russia said rebels in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military assistance. Fears that Russia was laying the groundwork for war bore out about a half-hour later.
“It's too late, my dear colleagues, to speak about de-escalation,” Kyslytsya told the council.
“I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war," he added.
Not a war but a 'special military operation': Ukrainian Ambassador was told
In a spontaneous exchange not often seen in the council chamber, Kyslytsya challenged his Russian counterpart to say that his country wasn't at that very moment bombing and shelling Ukraine or moving troops into it.
“You have a smartphone. You can call officials in Moscow," Kyslytsya said.
“I have already said all I know at this point," Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia responded.
He added that he didn't plan to wake up Russia's foreign minister — and said that what was happening was not a war but a “special military operation.”
Kyslytsya dismissed that description outside the meeting as “lunatic sematics.”
At the council's second emergency meeting this week on Ukraine, members found themselves delivering prepared speeches that were instantly outdated. Some ultimately reacted in a second round of hastily added remarks.
“At the exact time as we are gathered in the council seeking peace, Putin delivered a message of war, in total disdain for the responsibility of this council,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
She added that a draft resolution would be put circulated to the council Thursday.
The Russia Ukraine conflict
Russia seized Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and pro-Russia rebels have since been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. More than 14,000 people were killed in the conflict.
After weeks of rising tension as Moscow massed over 150,000 troops on Ukraine's borders, Putin on Monday recognized the two regions' independence and ordered Russian forces there for what he called “peacekeeping."
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres disputed that, saying the troops were entering another country without its consent.
By the end of the night Wednesday, as explosions were heard in Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine, Guterres' appeal to “give peace a chance” had become a darker and more desperate plea.
“President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia," the secretary-general said in remarks to reporters. "In the name of humanity, do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of this century.”