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Security Council holds emergency meeting on Ukraine: Major conflict must be ‘prevented at all costs’

A wide view of the emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
A wide view of the emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

Security Council holds emergency meeting on Ukraine: Major conflict must be ‘prevented at all costs’

Peace and Security

With “great concern and sadness”, the UN political and peacebuilding chief opened an emergency Security Council meeting on Monday night about the “unfolding dangerous situation in and around Ukraine”.

Ukraine requested an urgent meeting of the Council following the announcement by President Vladimir Putin that Russia would officially recognize certain areas of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent states.

“The risk of major conflict is real and needs to be prevented at all costs,” Rosemary A. DiCarlo said, reminding Council members that Russia’s decision was “in violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” and risks triggering regional and global repercussions.

“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”.

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Sweeping violations

Ms. DiCarlo also raised concern over escalating shelling across the contact line, which have reportedly lead to a number of casualties.

She cited the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in counting 3,231 ceasefire violations in the Donbas area from 18-20 February: 1,073 ceasefire violations, including 926 explosions in the Luhansk region; and 2,158 ceasefire violations, including 1,100 explosions, in 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.

On the brink

Moreover, Ms. DiCarlo flagged possible implications that the latest developments will have on existing negotiation frameworks.

“Amid the current risks and uncertainty, it is even more important to pursue dialogue”, she said, underscoring that “negotiation is the only way” to address the differences.

Before the any further escalation, she called on all relevant actors to focus their efforts on an immediate cessation of hostilities.

“Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected, and actions and statements that may worsen the situation must be avoided”, she said.

The UN political chief explained 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.

‘Critical’ time ahead

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.

“During this difficult period, we are committed to stay and deliver and remain fully operational in Ukraine, including in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The safety and security of all our staff is of utmost concern to the Organization and must be respected by all parties”, she stated.

In closing, Ms. DiCarlo described as “critical”, the next hours and days, assuring the Council that the Secretary-General would continue to work towards a resolution to the current crisis.

Ukraine stands firm against Russia

UN Permanent Ambassador of Ukraine Sergei Kislitsa speaks to the emergency meeting of the Security Council on Ukraine, 21 February 2022.

Taking off his face mask to speak, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergei Kislitsa said Russia was a “virus” for instigating war and chaos for eight years: “The United Nations is sick. That’s a matter of fact. It’s been hit by the virus spread by Kremlin.”

He went on to say that Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders have been and will remain unchangeable “regardless of any statements and actions by the Russian Federation,” and added: “We are on our land. We owe nothing to anyone. And we will not give away anything to anyone. We are not afraid of anything or anyone.”

Russia to West: Do not make situation worse

Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia (left) of the Russian Federation chairs the emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

After “a number of very emotional statements, categorical assessments and far-reaching conclusions”, Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya 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”.

Mr. Nebenzya also urged Western colleagues to “come to their senses, put aside their emotions and not make the situation worse”.

‘Swift and severe’ repercussions may lie ahead

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the United States addresses the emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called President Vladimir Putin’s move the basis for Russia to create "a pretext" to further invade Ukraine, the consequences of which would be felt far beyond that country's borders.

She said that Mr. Putin is “testing our resolve” and wants to “demonstrate that through force, he can make a farce of the UN”.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield upheld that the US would take further measures to hold Russia accountable for this “clear violation of international law”, stressing that should Russia further invade Ukraine, the response will be “swift and severe.”

Russia's decision violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity

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Secretary-General António Guterres is “greatly concerned” by the Russian Federation’s decision on the status of certain areas of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, his Spokesperson said.

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, Mr. Guterres considered 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”.

Cease hostilities, immediately

Amid an intense spike in shelling in eastern Ukraine by opposing sides, the concentration of Russian troops reportedly continues to increase at the country’s borders.

The Secretary-General is urging all relevant actors to focus their efforts on “ensuring an immediate cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, preventing any actions and statements that may further escalate the dangerous situation in and around Ukraine and prioritizing diplomacy to address all issues peacefully”.

Mr. Dujarric assured that in line with the relevant General Assembly resolutions, the UN remains fully supportive of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders. 

The UN chief was planning to make and official visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but in light of the deteriorating situation regarding Ukraine, he has cancelled the mission.