In a historic and rare emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) requested by the United States and Albania and  following Russia vetoing a resolution that condemns their invasion of Ukraine.  Countries have condemned and backed a proposal demanding that the Kremlin stop its invasion of Ukraine in an attempt to corner Russia and stop the ongoing aggression on Ukrainian soil. In a UNGA assembly, no vetoes are allowed, which means Russia or its allies with veto powers cannot block an incoming resolution from passing.

The emergency meeting is considered historic as it is the first time in 40 years that a resolution 337A(V) or the ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution had been invoked. Furthermore, it is only the 11th time the resolution was cast into political play since November 3, 1950, with the last one being 40 years ago during the Israeli crisis in 1982.

According to the United Nations, the Uniting for Peace resolution can be invoked when there is a lack of unanimity with the Security Council’s permanent members and subsequently fails to exercise its primary responsibility to maintain international peace or security. Who are the permanent members of the UNSC? The US, China, Russia, Britain, and France. In simpler terms, when there is a deadlock regarding an issue within the United Nations Security Council, the aforementioned resolution can be invoked, such as the current issue with Russia’s usage of its veto powers.

More than 100 countries have asked to take the floor. Most have the intention of expressing their support for Ukraine and subsequently condemning the Russian attacks. In order to accommodate the sheer volume of representatives to take the podium, speech times will be allocated till Wednesday, when the assembly is expected to vote on a resolution.

What was said in the UN General Assembly emergency session?

The UN General Assembly emergency session was opened by Assembly President Abdulla Shahid from the Maldives, offering a minute of silence. He reminded all those present that the United Nations was founded to secure international peace and security and that all members should take steps to bring about peace through the observance of justice and international law.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres boldly stated that “the fighting in Ukraine must stop now” and that “Enough is enough,” as children, civilians, and non-military structures have now been directly affected by the invasion. He stressed that civilians, at all costs, should be protected and that Ukraine’s sovereignty is internationally recognized by Russia.

“Yesterday, Russian nuclear forces were put on high alert. This is a chilling development. The mere idea of a nuclear conflict is simply inconceivable. Nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.

An emotional Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s Representative to the UN, drew comparisons between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Second World War, stating that a large global power had launched a full-scale attack on a much smaller and less militarily capable neighbor. He asked, “Does this remind you of something?” to the audience in an attempt to make parallels to World War II.

“We have been prompted to call for an emergency special session as the level of the threat to the global security has been equated to that of the Second World War or even higher following Putin’s order to put an alert [on] Russian nuclear forces. What a madness!” he exclaimed. “If he wants to kill himself, he doesn’t need to use nuclear arsenal. He has to do what they say, what the guy in Berlin did in a bunker in May 1945,” referring to Adolf Hitler’s apparent suicide to escape capture.

He also read aloud a series of text messages between a Russian soldier in Ukraine and his mother before he was killed. In the text message, the Russian mother asks the soldier if he was really in a training exercise and why the soldier hasn’t responded in a long time. The Russian soldier then admits that he was no longer in Crimea, that he was in Ukraine, and engaged in a war. The Russian soldier claims that he was “afraid” and that they were bombing Ukrainian cities, admitting that they were targeting civilians and lied to by Russia.

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“If Ukraine does not survive, international peace will not survive,” he said, warning that the legitimacy of the United Nations was at stake and called on his fellow representatives to support him in his call to have Russian forces immediately withdrawn from Ukrainian soil, and reverse the decision of Russia regarding the status of the Donetsk and Luhansk so-called People’s Republics. “Have no illusions. If Ukraine does not survive, we cannot be surprised if democracy fails next.”

Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya during his speech during the UN General Assembly Emergency Special Session (UN, Evan Schneider). Source: https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/02/1112912
Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya during his speech during the UN General Assembly Emergency Special Session (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

In response, Russian UN Representative Vasily Nebenzya accused Ukraine of being the root cause of the problem and the invasion during the UN General Assembly emergency session. He claimed that Donetsk and Luhansk were provoked and requested Moscow’s assistance. He accused Ukraine of being neo-Nazis and that there was a need to de-Nazify Ukraine. “The Russian Federation did not begin these hostilities that were unleashed by Ukraine against its own residents,” he reiterated.

“Occupation of Ukraine is not part of this plan. The goal of this special operation is to protect the people who for eight years suffered with torment and genocide by the Kyiv regime, and there is a need to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine. We further will strive to hold accountable those who carried out countless brutal crimes against the residents, including residents of the Russian Federation,” the Russian diplomat explained.

Syrian Representative Bassam Sabbagh backed Russia, stating that the West was committing a “politics of hypocrisy” as other conflicts in the past years were not met with equal attention as much as Ukraine has. They further added that Ukraine’s so-called anti-Russian campaign compromises Russia’s security.

On the other hand, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun is again taking a neutral stance on the issue, having a dispute with Taiwan. He called for the international recognition of all borders and to respect all countries’ sovereignty.

“The Cold War mentality based on bloc confrontation should be abandoned. Nothing can be gained from stirring up a new Cold War, but everyone will stand to lose,” Zhang stated.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Chief Filippo Grandi, 520,000 refugees from Ukraine have gone to neighboring countries in search of refuge from the attacks. He estimated that 4 million refugees were to come in the following weeks if the invasion would not end.

12 Russian Diplomats Expelled

Meanwhile, the United States had expelled and removed 12 Russian diplomats to the United Nations for allegedly engaging in espionage that was harming US national security. “The United States has informed the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations that we are beginning the process of expelling 12 intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who have abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security,” said US Spokeswoman for the US Mission to the United Nations Olivia Dalton in a statement.

Nebenzya reacted to the news stating that it was a “hostile” act of aggression from the United States and a ‘gross disrespect to the host country agreement.’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki commented on his statements saying, “I think the hostile act is committing espionage activities on our own soil.”

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