The ‘saddest moment’: UN condemns Russian invasion in Ukraine

Ukraine’s flag waving in the sky Ukraine’s flag waving in the sky © Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

24 February 2022

After the continuous debates at the UN level finding a diplomatic solution in Ukraine, Russia started its military operations in the country

On 24 February night, at 03.00 am, Russia announced the start of military operations in Donbas and called on Ukraine’s military to lay down its arms. Soon after, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba declared that Russia has launched a “full-scale invasion” of Ukraine and is targeting cities with weapons strikes. AlJazeera reporters in Ukraine heard several attacks in different areas. One reported that at least seven “loud explosions” have been heard the Kyiv Boryspil international airport, as well as in Odessa, Kharkiv and other cities in the south-east part of Ukraine.The CNN reports that Ukraine has been attacked from the borders with the Russian Federation, the Republic of Belarus and also from Crimea. In the same hours, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has introduced martial law, and urged people to remain calm on the basis of all the support coming from the international community.

After the Russian recognition of Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) and the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), the United Nations Security Council called for an emergency reunion on 21 February to discuss the “unfolding dangerous situation in and around Ukraine”. Indeed, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission counted 3,231 ceasefire violations in the Donbas area. The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary A. DiCarlo, presiding the meeting, expressed anxiety over reports of civilian casualties, the targeting of critical civilian infrastructure, and ongoing evacuations. The following day, Secretary-General António Guterres rushed back to UN headquarters in New York “deeply troubled by the latest developments regarding Ukraine.” At the press release, Mr. Guterres drew attention especially to “the safety and wellbeing” of all those who have already suffered from “so much death, destruction and displacement”.

In the General Assembly that took place soon after, the Secretary General tried to find dialogue especially on the protection of civilians. Flagging that UN humanitarian operations are “independent of whoever might control the territory where people are living”, he pointed out that even before this latest escalation, two million Ukrainians had needed humanitarian assistance. The UN chief also warned that if the conflict in Ukraine had expanded, “the world could see a scale and severity of need unseen for many years”, and thus it is important to solve the situation without further bloodshed. The strongest words came from Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia of Russia, who stated that, with Russia’s recognition of “independence” of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, “this conflict is far from over”.

During the Security Council meeting on the Ukraine crisis, Russia announced the beginning of a ‘special military operation’. According to UN news, the announcement came after the Secretary-General António Guterres drew attention to rumors that were circulating that an offensive against Ukraine was imminent. In his remarks at the press encounter after the meeting, Guterres called the situation ‘the saddest moment’ in his tenure as Secretary-General at the United Nations. He asked the Russian government, in the name of humanity, to bring his troops back to Russia, adding that this invasion would start in Europe “the worst war since the beginning of the century”. 

 Ms. DiCarlo stated that UN staff will remain on the ground to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine, adding that they are committed to staying and delivering. According to UN news, Ms. DiCarlo emphasized the necessity of ensuring safety and security. She declared that “respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law is paramount”.

All the Members of the Security Council, General Assembly, and the Secretary-General himself have been calling for an end to Russia’s aggression. To use the words of UK Ambassador Dame Barbara Woodward, “[t]he world is calling for peace, but Russia is not listening”.


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Author: Jasmina Saric

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