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Ukraine Conflict

Ukraine conflict: Russia defends invasion during emergency U.N. General Assembly

Published : Mar 01, 2022 17:18 IST T+T-
Protesters gathered outside the U.N. headquarters in Manhattan during the emergency General Assembly session.

Protesters gathered outside the U.N. headquarters in Manhattan during the emergency General Assembly session.

A clear majority of U.N. member states are expected to vote to condemn Russia's actions.

The 193 members of the U.N.'s General Assembly held a minute's silence on February 28 for the victims of the war in Ukraine as delegates met for an emergency session to discuss a resolution condemning Moscow's "aggression." Russia found itself increasingly isolated but defended its "military operation," blaming the violence on Kyiv during only the 11th special session in the U.N.'s 77-year history. The members of the assembly are set to vote on a symbolic denouncement of Russia's actions, but one that is seen as an important barometer not just for its condemnation of Moscow aggression, but also for the global stance against creeping authoritarianism around the world.

Also, unlike the more prominent Security Council, where a single vote against from veto holder Russia can thwart any motion or resolution, as it did in February 25's emergency session, the General Assembly can move on a two-thirds majority vote rather than a unanimous one. Certain countries, such as Syria, China and India, are expected to vote against or abstain from condemning Moscow on March 2, while those behind the resolution are hoping for more than 100 votes in favor.

What did the Ukrainian representative say?

Ukraine's ambassador to the U.N., Sergiy Kyslytsya, was unsurprisingly critical of Russia in his address to the assembly, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to increase his country's nuclear readiness "madness." He accused Moscow of targeting residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, which he condemned as "war crimes." Kyslytsya went on to warn the other delegates of the consequences of Russia's invasion. "If Ukraine does not survive, international peace will not survive. If Ukraine does not survive, the United Nations will not survive. ... If Ukraine does not survive, we cannot be surprised if democracy fails," Kyslytsya said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the violence. "Enough is enough. Soldiers need to move back to their barracks. Leaders need to move to peace. Civilians must be protected," he said.

How did Russia defend its invasion?

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, reiterated claims made by Putin when he launched the invasion last week. He blamed Kyiv for the war, claiming that it had violated the Minsk agreements and repeating the line that Moscow wants to "demilitarize and de-nazify" Ukraine. Russia also claimed that it had acted in "self-defense," in line with Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, but other U.N. members have rejected this account, saying Russia violated Article 2, which says states should not use force to resolve a crisis. Nebenzya also told the assembly that "the Russian army does not pose a threat to the civilians of Ukraine, is not shelling civilian areas." This goes against multiple reports of Russian strikes hitting residential areas and killing civilians from officials in Ukraine.

The ambassador of China, Zhang Jun, told the assembly that "nothing can be gained from starting off a new Cold War." Beijing has refused to condemn Russia's actions but has called for negotiations to end the violence.

ab/msh, jsi (Reuters, AFP)