Russian invasion an affront on our conscience – United Nations chief

Thursday, February 23, 2023 – UN secretary general, António Guterres has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine calling it an “affront to our collective conscience” as the 193-member General assembly meets on Thursday, February 23 ahead of a vote that the US said would “go down in history.”

Speaking on Wednesday February 22, during a special session of the general assembly, Guterres called the anniversary of Moscow’s attack “a grim milestone for the people of Ukraine and for the international community.” as fighting continues to rage in Ukraine in a war that has displaced millions, affected global oil and food prices and resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 combined Russians and Ukranian soldiers.

On Wednesday the UN general assembly debated a motion backed by Kyiv and its allies calling for a “just and lasting peace.”

US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the resolution calls on member states to support diplomacy and a comprehensive and lasting peace in Ukraine.

“This vote will go down in history. We will see where all nations stand on the matter of peace in Ukraine,” she said.

About 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.”

With the new resolution, the Ukrainian government hopes to garner the support of at least as many countries as it did 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.

In his opening remarks, Guterres highlighted the impact on the world of Russia’s invasion. He noted that it has generated eight million refugees, and damaged global food and energy supplies in countries far away from the war zone.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told delegates that they faced a “decisive moment.”

“Never in recent history has the line between good and evil been so clear. One country merely wants to live. The other wants to kill and destroy,” he said.

More than 80 countries are scheduled to address the general assembly, which is expected to vote on the draft resolution on Ukraine on Thursday or Friday.

As the debate opened, Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzia 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,” Nebenzia said, adding that the US and its allies wanted to shore up their own “hegemony.”

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.

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