Fiery speeches as UNGA begins discussion on Ukraine at rare emergency session

February 28, 2022 11:46 pm | Updated March 01, 2022 08:48 am IST - NEW DELHI.

Trucks display electronic messages while protestors demonstrate outside United Nations headquarters, as diplomats hold an emergency session of the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in New York, U.S on February 28, 2022

Trucks display electronic messages while protestors demonstrate outside United Nations headquarters, as diplomats hold an emergency session of the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in New York, U.S on February 28, 2022 | Photo Credit: Reuters

“Enough is enough,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA), hearing a resolution to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine as he called for an immediate cessation of violence and withdrawal of Russia’s military from Ukrainian territory.

“The fighting in Ukraine must stop,” Mr. Guterres said. “We are facing a tragedy for Ukraine, but also a major regional crisis with potentially disastrous implications for us all.”

In a reference to President Vladimir Putin’s decision to place Russian nuclear weapons on a more elevated alert, and Belarus President Lukashenko’s decision to reverse his country’s non-nuclear status, Mr. Guterres said the “mere idea of a nuclear conflict is simply inconceivable,” adding that, “Nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons.”

Shortly after Mr. Guterres spoke, the representatives of Ukraine and Russia sparred at the session, presided over by President of the General Assembly and Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid. Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya called Russia’s actions and nuclear announcement “madness”, and warned that “if Ukraine does not survive, the UN will not survive”.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia alleged that it was Ukraine and not Russia that had begun “these hostilities”, claiming that the Ukrainian government had planted the “roots of the crisis” and had not implemented the 2015 Minsk agreement.

The resolution on Ukraine, which is being heard at the Eleventh Emergency Special session of the UNGA, was mandated by the UN Security Council (UNSC), after a U.S.-led effort to criticise Russia at the UNSC in resolution 8979 was vetoed by the Russian representative. India, along with China and the United Arab Emirates, had abstained from that vote.

India likely to abstain

India is widely expected to also abstain from the resolution at the UNGA, which is a considerably tougher and lengthier version of UNSC 8979, although officials said they would take a final call based on the text. India may, however, be more inclined to support another resolution due to be discussed at the UNSC on Monday night on ensuring humanitarian access for civilians and refugees, the officials said. The government has said safety of Indian citizens fleeing the violence in Ukraine is its “topmost” priority.

The UNGA resolution is expected to be voted sometime on Tuesday, after over 100 listed speakers, including India, make their statements. According to a draft circulated before the discussion, if passed, the UNGA would “deplore in the strongest terms” Russian “aggression” on Ukraine, demand a complete withdrawal of troops, and a reversal of the Russian decision to recognise the enclaves of Donetsk and Luhansk. It also demands an immediate return to talks, and for all parties to allow and facilitate “rapid, safe and unhindered” access for all civilians to humanitarian assistance.

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