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  4. Russia-Ukraine war: 'Saddest moment in my tenure' as UN chief, says Antonio Guterres as Putin announces war

Russia-Ukraine war: 'Saddest moment in my tenure' as UN chief, says Antonio Guterres as Putin announces war

In a televised address, Putin said Russia's move to launch a special military operation in Ukraine came in response to threats emanating from that country. He also warned other countries that if they attempted to interfere with the Russian military operation they would see “consequences they have never seen”.

PTI Reported by: PTI United Nations Updated on: February 24, 2022 12:56 IST
In this image from UNTV video, United Nation
Image Source : AP

In this image from UNTV video, United Nation Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine to deplore Russia's actions toward the country and plead for diplomacy

Highlights

  • UN secretary Guterres termed Putin's announcement of military operation as saddest moment
  • "Special military operation in Ukraine came in response to threats from Ukraine", said Putin
  • The French envoy stated that Russia must be held accountable before the Security Council

Russia-Ukraine war: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has termed Russian President Vladimir Putin announcement of a special military operation in Ukraine as the “saddest moment in my tenure”, while Security Council members blasted the Russian leader for the “unprovoked and unjustified” action and for delivering a “message of war”.

Putin on Thursday announced a special military operation in eastern Ukraine, claiming it's intended to protect civilians.

In a televised address, Putin said Russia's move to launch a special military operation in Ukraine came in response to threats emanating from that country. He also warned other countries that if they attempted to interfere with the Russian military operation they would see “consequences they have never seen”.

“This is the saddest moment in my tenure as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I started this meeting of the Security Council addressing President Putin and telling him from the bottom of my heart: Stop your troops from an offensive against Ukraine, give peace a chance because too many people have died,” Guterres told reporters at the UN headquarters here as he came out of an emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine late Wednesday night.

During the meeting President Putin announced a ‘special military operation’ in the Donbas and required the Ukrainian troops to lay down their arms, he noted.

"So, in the present circumstances I must change my appeal,” Guterres said.

“I must say, President Putin: In the name of humanity bring your troops back to Russia. In the name of humanity, do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century, with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation," but for the entire world, he said.

The UN chief said the impact of the attack "we cannot even foresee in relation to the consequences for the global economy in a moment when we are emerging from the COVID (pandemic) and so many developing countries absolutely need to have space for the recovery which would be very, very difficult, with the high prices of oil, with the end of exports of wheat from Ukraine, and with the rising interest rates caused by instability in international markets”.

The announcement by Putin came just at the time the Council was meeting on the situation in Ukraine, the second such meeting this week and the fourth since January 31.

Council members made their remarks calling for de-escalation, restraint and diplomacy just as explosions and artillery fire were beginning to be reported from eastern Ukraine. Several Council members, including permanent members US, UK and France, took the floor again after making their initial statements to react to Putin’s announcement.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “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. This is a grave emergency. The Council will need to act, and we will put a resolution on the table tomorrow.”

She added that earlier in her remarks, “I said that we predicted Russia’s false flag attacks, the misinformation, the theatrical emergency meetings, and the cyber attacks – but one piece had not come to pass. Unfortunately, while we've been meeting in the Security Council tonight, it appears that President Putin has ordered that last step”.

UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward said “as we sat in this Chamber urging Russia to step back, President Putin announced special military operations on Ukrainian territory".

“This is unprovoked and unjustified. This is a grave day for Ukraine and for the principles of the United Nations,” Woodward said, adding that the UK and its partners “have been clear that there will be consequences for Russia's actions. We fully support the United States call for a UN Security Council resolution. This Council must do all it can to stop war and uphold the Charter”.

French envoy Nicolas De Riviere said “at the very moment when we were urgently meeting to try to prevent the worst and the outbreak of war, we learned, as you all did, that the President of the Russian Federation has ordered a special military operation in the Donbas and that Russia will try to demilitarise Ukraine".

“Russia has thus made the choice of war,” he said, voicing his country’s condemnation in the “strongest terms” of the launching of these operations.

“This decision, announced at the very moment when this Council is meeting, illustrates the contempt in which Russia holds international law and the United Nations,” the French envoy said.

He added that Russia must be held accountable before the Security Council and this is why France will join its partners in the Council to prepare in the coming hours a resolution condemning the war led by Moscow.

“We call on all members of this Council to support us in these tragic circumstances. We call on the Russian Federation to respect international humanitarian law in all circumstances, and we call for the protection of and respect for all civilians, including vulnerable people, women, children and humanitarian personnel,” Riviere said.

Ireland’s Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason said when she spoke earlier in the Council she had said that the path for diplomacy and the path for dialogue was perilously narrow.

"And I didn’t realise how narrow, and indeed how close to the precipice we really were just over an hour ago.

“We now see that that path has been closed by the announcement of a military aggression on the part of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. That is something that we roundly condemn. We stand with the people of Ukraine tonight – with every man, woman and child who is seeing this news as we did as we sat here in the chamber, and whose lives are at risk,” Nason said.

She said it is now time for the Council to stand up and to assume its responsibility and to speak out in the strongest possible terms about this act of aggression.

A visibly agitated and upset Ukrainian envoy at the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya told Russia’s Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia, President of the Security Council for the month of February, that he should “relinquish” his duties as Chair, and call Putin and (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov to stop aggression.

He welcomed the decision of some Council Members to meet as soon as possible to consider the resolution that will "condemn the aggression that you launched on my people. There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, Ambassador.”

Nebenzia said, “We aren't being aggressive against the Ukrainian people but against the junta that is in power in Kyiv. This isn't called a war, it is called a special military operation in the Donbas.”

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