UN chief Guterres condemns Russian 'affront' at General Assembly meet on Ukraine

Guterres noted that the war had generated eight million refugees
Last Updated : 23 February 2023, 04:13 IST

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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine Wednesday as the General Assembly met in a special session two days before the anniversary of Moscow's attack.

"That invasion is an affront to our collective conscience," Guterres said, calling the anniversary "a grim milestone for the people of Ukraine and for the international community."

As fighting raged on in Ukraine, the General Assembly began debating a motion backed by Kyiv and its allies calling for a "just and lasting peace."

While the measure is not as tough as Ukraine would like, it is hoping that a large majority of UN states will back the non-binding resolution to demonstrate Kyiv has the support of the global community.

Some 60 countries have sponsored the resolution, which stresses "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 reaffirms the UN's "commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine" and calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

It also demands Russia "immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine."

In his opening remarks, Guterres highlighted the impact on the world of Russia's February 24, 2022 invasion of its neighbor.

He noted that it has generated eight million refugees, and hurt global food and energy supplies in countries far away from the war zone.

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

"While prospects may look bleak today, we know that genuine, lasting peace must be based on the UN Charter and international law. The longer the fighting continues, the more difficult this work will be," he said.

With the new resolution, Kyiv hopes to garner the support of at least as many nations as in October, when 143 countries voted to condemn Russia's declared annexation of several Ukrainian territories.

China, India and more than 30 other countries have abstained during previous UN votes in support of Ukraine.

To that end, Ukraine pulled back from having President Volodymyr Zelensky's 10-point peace plan inserted into the measure, according to diplomatic sources.

"I think we have come up with a text which really tries to gather the international community, tries to be as cohesive and as positive as possible," said one European diplomat, saying it could make Moscow feel "isolated."

As the debate opened, Russia's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya called Ukraine "neo-Nazi" and accused the West of sacrificing the country and the developing world in their desire to beat Russia.

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

"They don't want to have anyone come to the level of governing the planet. They think it's their turf," he said.

But European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rejected that.

"I want to stress it: this war is not a 'European issue'. Nor is it about 'the West versus Russia'," Borrell told the General Assembly.

"No, this illegal war concerns everyone: the North, the South, the East and the West," he said.

Ahead of the General Assembly session, Ukraine's first lady told a meeting of top global diplomats that for real justice to be served, an international tribunal should be convened to judge Russia.

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

"However, Ukrainians are being killed in front of the whole world for the whole year in their own cities, villages, apartments, hospitals, theaters."

"That's why we call on the United Nations to establish a special tribunal for the crimes of Russian aggression," she said.

Published 23 February 2023, 04:13 IST

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