UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting on Ukraine for Wednesday evening, just hours after diplomats from dozens of countries addressed the General Assembly to lament Russia’s actions towards the country and advocating for diplomacy amid fears of another war in Europe grew.
Citing an “immediate threat of a Russian offensive”, Ukraine called for the council session after Russia said rebels in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military assistance.
The council, where Russia holds the rotating presidency this month, was meeting just two days after another emergency session saw no support for Russia’s decision to recognize two rebel regions of Ukraine as independent and to order Russian troops there for “peacekeeping”.
Council diplomats are finalizing a draft resolution that would declare Russia in violation of the UN Charter, international law and a 2015 council resolution on Ukraine, a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. The resolution would urge Russia to immediately return to compliance, the diplomat said.
At the General Assembly meeting earlier on Wednesday, Russia and its Syrian ally defended Moscow’s measures. But even China, which usually takes Russia’s side at the UN, has championed the world body’s longstanding principle of respecting countries’ sovereignty and internationally recognized borders, without mentioning Russia by name.
Meeting a day after Western powers and some other countries imposed new sanctions on Russia, the 193-member General Assembly took no collective action. But comments from nearly 70 countries, with more expected on Monday, represented the broadest forum for global sentiment since the crisis deepened significantly this week.
Countries from Guatemala to Turkey to Japan have condemned Russia’s adherence to the independence claims of breakaway regions or voiced support for Ukraine.
“Ukraine, you are not alone,” said Bulgarian Ambassador Lachezara Stoeva.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged countries “to stand aside”.
“There is no middle ground here. Calling on both sides to defuse only gives Russia a free pass. Russia is the aggressor here,” she said.
Thomas-Greenfield warned that the confrontation could escalate into a refugee crisis, estimating that 5 million people could be displaced and could drive up food prices in developing countries where Ukraine supplies wheat.
Echoing a narrative broadcast to Russians back home, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia described his country as responding to the plight of those under siege in breakaway areas. Russia claims that Ukraine engages in violence and oppression, which Ukraine denies.
“We urge you today to focus on control in Kyiv,” Nebenzia said.
Syria has accused the West of using the assembly to pressure Moscow.
“The Ukrainian crisis was created by Western states, led by the United States, to divide peoples and undermine Russian security,” Ambassador Bassam al-Sabbagh said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba implored countries to use tough economic sanctions, strong messages and “active diplomacy” to roll back Russia. A lackluster response would jeopardize not only Ukraine but also the concept of international law and global security, he warned.
“We must use this last chance for action and stop Russia where it stands,” Kuleba said.
Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, and pro-Russian rebels have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. More than 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
After weeks of escalating tension as Moscow massed more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the independence of the two regions and ordered Russian forces there as needed. called “peacekeepers”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres disputed this, saying it was about troops entering another country without its consent.
“Our world is facing a moment of peril,” António Guterres told the assembly.
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