Facing increasing global isolation, Russia faced urgent calls on Monday to end its “unprovoked” and “unprovoked” attack on Ukraine as the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly held an extraordinary debate on the invasion of the former Soviet country.
During the rare emergency special session, the assembly’s eleventh session in its history, Russia defended its decision to invade its neighbor, as country after country urged peace from the podium.
On the sidelines, the US said it had expelled 12 “intelligence agents” of the Russian UN mission from the country “for engaging in espionage activities contrary to our national security”.
Inside the General Assembly hall, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “The fighting in Ukraine must stop. That’s enough.”
Representatives of more than 100 countries are expected to speak over three days as the world body decides whether to support a resolution demanding Russia immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
Wednesday’s vote is expected, and it must reach the two-thirds threshold to pass. The resolution is non-binding, but it would be a sign of how isolated Russia is.
Its authors hope to exceed 100 votes in favor – although countries such as Syria, China, Cuba and India are expected to support Russia or abstain from the vote.
“We do not feel isolated,” Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, told reporters.
He repeated Moscow’s position, categorically rejected by Kyiv and its Western allies, that its military operation was launched to protect the population of the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.
“Ukraine has unleashed hostilities against its own population,” he said during his speech.
The vote is also seen as a barometer of democracy in a world of rising authoritarian sentiment, diplomats said, pointing to such regimes in Myanmar, Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Venezuela, Nicaragua – and of course Russia.
“If Ukraine does not survive, the United Nations will not survive. No illusions,” said Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sergei Kisletsya.
‘I am afraid’
During a touching speech, Kyslytsya uploaded pictures of what he said were the last text messages from a Russian soldier to his mother before he was killed.
“Mama, I’m in Ukraine. I’m afraid,” said Kisletsya, reading the letters. “They call us fascists. Mama, this is so hard.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and Moscow called for “self-defense” under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
But this was categorically rejected by Western countries and the United States itself. They accuse Moscow of violating Article 2 of the charter, which requires members to refrain from threatening or using force to resolve any crisis.
British Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the General Assembly that the war was “unjustified and unjustified”.
She added that the decision would be “a message to the world that the rules that we built together must be defended.” “Because other than that, who might be next?”
China’s UN envoy Zhang Jun warned that “nothing can be gained from starting a new Cold War,” but he did not indicate how Beijing would vote.
The move to hold the emergency session came due to Russia’s veto on Friday to block a similar resolution in the Security Council.
Council members can turn to the General Assembly if the five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – fail to agree to work together to keep the peace.
There is no veto in the General Assembly, which held a similar vote in 2014 condemning Russia’s seizure of Crimea and received 100 votes in favor.
The Security Council held a separate emergency meeting on Monday on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has warned that the fighting is expected to displace four million people.
Nebenzia announced the news of the expulsion of 12 diplomats during a press conference, saying he had just heard that dozens had been told to leave the United States by March 7.
A US spokeswoman said the move “has been in development for several months,” noting that it was not directly related to the war.
In response, Moscow called the expulsions a “hostile act.”