UN chief Guterres condemns Russian 'affront' in Ukraine

His strong statement came as the 193-member UN General Assembly resumed the Emergency Special Session on Ukraine on Wednesday

February 23, 2023 12:28 pm | Updated 06:21 pm IST - United Nations

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the eleventh emergency special session of the General Assembly on February 22, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the eleventh emergency special session of the General Assembly on February 22, 2023 at United Nations headquarters. | Photo Credit: AP

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called Russia's invasion of Ukraine “an affront to our collective conscience” that violates the UN Charter and challenges “the cornerstone principles and values of our multilateral system.”

The war that started a year ago is fanning regional instability and fuelling global tensions and divisions, he said as the General Assembly is set to adopt a resolution that underscores the need to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in war-torn Ukraine.

His strong statement came as the 193-member UN General Assembly resumed the Emergency Special Session on Ukraine on Wednesday and the world body marked one year of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Also Read |Explained | The next leg of the Russia-Ukraine war 

Addressing the session, Mr. Guterres said the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stands as a “grim milestone – for the people of Ukraine and for the international community.

“That invasion is an affront to our collective conscience. It is a violation of the United Nations Charter and international law. It is having dramatic humanitarian and human rights consequences. And the impact is being felt far beyond Ukraine.” “As I said from day one, Russia’s attack on Ukraine challenges the cornerstone principles and values of our multilateral system,” Mr. Guterres said.

Also Read | Lessons from Russia’s Ukraine war 

He added that the war is also "fanning regional instability and fuelling global tensions and divisions while diverting attention and resources from other crises and pressing global issues.” “War is not the solution. War is the problem…While prospects may look bleak today, we must all work knowing that genuine, lasting peace must be based on the UN Charter and international law.”

The UN General Assembly is expected to vote on a draft resolution on Thursday titled ‘Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine’ that will underscore “the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” It will reiterate its demand that Russia immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, and calls for a cessation of hostilities.

Also Read | Relentless war: On Russia-Ukraine crisis

In the year since Russia’s February 24, 2022 invasion of Ukraine, several UN resolutions - in the General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council, condemned the invasion and underlined the commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

India has abstained from the UN resolutions on Ukraine and has consistently underlined the need to respect the UN Charter, international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.

UN Director at the non-profit organisation Crisis Group, Richard Gowan told PTI that the U.S. and Europeans are "resigned" to the fact that India will abstain again on the UNGA resolution.

He said the U.S. pushed very hard for India and South Africa to vote in favour of last October's resolution on Russia's attempt to annex parts of Ukraine. But both chose to abstain.

“I think Ukraine and its allies have concluded that there is little point in lobbying India too hard this time. Equally, I think that the US and Europeans will hope that India does not join China, Brazil and South Africa in calling on Ukraine to enter a peace process with Russia with few or no preconditions,” he said.

Mr. Gowan noted that "Western diplomats are nervous that China and the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) countries will start pushing for a ceasefire, and will blame Ukraine if it fails to pause hostilities.” The U.S. said that the resolution that will be put to vote calls on the nations of the world to support diplomatic efforts to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace in Ukraine.

“A peace consistent with the UN Charter. Consistent with its fundamental principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and self-defence,” U.S. Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in her address to the Emergency Special Session.

“Colleagues, this vote will go down in history. On the one-year anniversary of this conflict, we will see where the nations of the world stand on the matter of peace in Ukraine,” she said.

Last October, the General Assembly had voted overwhelmingly to condemn Russia's "illegal so-called referendums in regions within the internationally recognised borders of Ukraine and the attempted illegal annexation of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, following the organisation of the above-mentioned referendums”.

India had abstained from the resolution and urged that all efforts be made for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an urgent return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy.

"The path to peace requires us to keep all channels of diplomacy open. We therefore sincerely hope for an early resumption of peace talks to bring about an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the conflict. India stands ready to support all such efforts aimed at de-escalation," India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj had said.

Ms. Kamboj had said that India is deeply concerned about the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, including the targeting of civilian infrastructure and the deaths of civilians.

"We have consistently advocated that no solution can ever arrive at the cost of human lives. Escalation of hostilities and violence is in no one's interest," she had said, adding that India has urged that all efforts be made for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an urgent return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy.

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