By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, Feb. 24, 2022
UN Security Council members have appealed to the Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop his troops from attacking Ukraine as the 15-member body met in New York.
“President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine, give peace a chance,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged Russia’s president on Wednesday night during the second emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine in three days.
Hours after diplomats took the floor at the General Assembly to deplore Russia’s actions toward Ukraine and appeal for diplomacy, Guterres said that instead of repeating what he’d already stated, his political chief would update the Council on “a number of events” that took place during the day.
But before handing the microphone to her, he drew attention to rumours that were circulating that an offensive attack against Ukraine was imminent.
As the meeting continued, President Putin announced a special military operation in the Donbas and asked Ukrainian troops to put down their arms.
Speaking to journalists after the session ended, Guterres called what happened the “saddest moment” in his tenure as UN Secretary-General.
In light of this development, the UN chief said: “I must change my address and say: In the name of humanity bring your troops back to Russia. In the name of humanity do not start what may be the most devastating war since the start of the century.”
Under-Secretary-General for political and peacebuilding Rosemary DiCarlo told the Council that earlier, the “so-called authorities of the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples Republics” requested military assistance from Russia.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities declared a nationwide state of emergency and announced other related defence and security measures, including the mobilisation of reservists.
“Throughout the day we have seen disturbing reports of continued heavy shelling across the contact line and civilian and military casualties…the repeated targeting of civilian infrastructure…[and] an ongoing large-scale military build-up and military columns moving towards Ukraine,” she said.
Moreover, Russia has also reportedly shut airspace to civilian aircraft near the border with Ukraine.
“The United Nations cannot verify any of these reports, but if these developments were confirmed, they would greatly aggravate an already extremely dangerous situation,” she said.
The Ukrainian authorities are also reporting a new large-scale cyber-attack targeting several State and financial institutions.
UN staff remain on the ground to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine, DiCarlo said, adding “we are committed to staying and delivering”.
“All parties must ensure the safety and security. Respect for international humanitarian law and international human rights law is also paramount,” she stated.
While the world cannot predict what will happen in the coming hours and days ahead, DiCarlo said that “what is clear is the unacceptably high cost – in human suffering and destruction – of an escalation,” the senior UN official said.