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UN's Guterres says Russia's invasion of Ukraine 'affront'

February 23, 2023

The UN Secretary General spoke during a session where Kyiv is pushing for a resolution for "lasting peace." Russia meanwhile says it was fighting a "proxy war" with the West.

USA New York | UN-Vollversammlung | Wassili Nebensja
Image: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The Secretary General of the United Nations has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, ahead of its first anniversary, describing it as an "affront to our collective conscience."

Antonio Guterres addressed the UN General Assembly ahead of a vote on a Kyiv-backed motion calling for a "just and lasting peace" in Ukraine that would involve Russia's withdrawal of troops.

What did Guterres say about Russia's invasion of Ukraine?

Guterres said Russia's invasion was a violation of the founding UN charter and international law.

"As I said from day one, Russia's attack on Ukraine challenges the cornerstone principles and values of our multilateral system," he said.

He also addressed Russia's hints that it might use nuclear weapons.

"We have heard implicit threats to use nuclear weapons. The so-called tactical use of nuclear weapons is utterly unacceptable. It is high time to step back from the brink."

What do we know about the draft resolution?

The draft resolution is likely to be voted on on Thursday.

It reaffirms the UN's "commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Ukraine." It also demands Russia "immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said diplomats were putting all efforts to ensure that "the world raises its voice loud and clear today, so that it is finally heard in Moscow."

"What the international community is asking for could not be simpler: a halt to Russian attacks, protection of civilians, respect for Ukraine's territorial integrity through Russian troop withdrawal, accountability for the crimes committed," she said.  

"That is the path to peace." 

How did Russia respond?

Russia has meanwhile rejected the draft resolution in question. It urged the assembly to vote no, describing it as "unbalanced and anti-Russian."

Moscow argues it is fighting what it describes as a "proxy war" with the West, in reference to Western countries arming Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Russia.

"The West has ... brazenly ignored our concerns and continues bringing the military infrastructure of NATO closer and closer to our borders," Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the General Assembly.

Vasily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation of the United Nations, speaks during the Eleventh Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Ukraine, at UN headquarters in New York City on February 22, 2023.
Russia's UN premanent representative accused the West of being prepared "to plunge the entire world into the abyss of war"Image: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

 "They are ready to plunge the entire world into the abyss of war," Nebenzya said, adding that the US and its allies wanted to shore up their own "hegemony."

He said Russia had "no other option" but to launch what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24 last year.

'Special tribunal for crimes of Russian aggression'

Ahead of the General Assembly convention, Ukraine's first lady called for an international tribunal to judge Russia.

Addressing a meeting of top global diplomats, Olena Zelenska said via video link that Ukrainians have been getting killed for a whole year in front of the entire world "in their own cities, villages, apartments, hospitals, theaters."

First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska speaks during the opening of a Russian War Crimes exhibition at Portcullis House, London, Tuesday Nov. 29, 2022.
Ukraine's first lady meanwhile called on the UN to set up a tribunal to judge RussiaImage: James Manning/AP Photo/picture alliance

"I think you will agree... regardless of our country or nationality, we have the right not to be killed in our own homes," she said.

Zelenska called on the UN to establish a special tribunal for the crimes of Russian aggression.

rmt/rc (AFP, Reuters)