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UN holds emergency session on Ukraine, vote on a draft resolution expected tomorrow

Minute of silence at the United Nations General Assembly session 28 February 2022; Photo: UN

NEW YORK – United Nations General Assembly is currently holding an emergency special meeting, for only the eleventh time in the 77-year history of the organization.

Some 100 countries are expected to address the General Assembly, which is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution on Russian aggression on Ukraine, tentatively expected on Wednesday.

Throughout the debate, many delegates voiced their views on a draft resolution to be taken up by the Assembly later this week, which is similar to the text which was vetoed by the Russian Federation in the Security Council. Should the resolution pass by a majority vote, it is widely expected to condemn the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.

Although Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they are considered to carry political weight as they express the will of the wider UN membership.

On Sunday, UN Security Council members voted in favour of the General Assembly convening. The General Assembly has only held 10 emergency sessions since 1950, in line with the adoption of resolution 377A(V), widely known as ‘Uniting for Peace’.

The resolution gives the Assembly power to take up matters of international peace and security when the Security Council is unable to act due to unanimity among its five permanent members – China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia – who have the power of veto.

During yesterday’s session, Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said that the UN stands with the people of Ukraine, including more than 500,000 who crossed the country’s borders fleeing relentless attacks by Russian forces.

Dozens of delegates from among the Assembly’s 193 Member States took part. Many speakers warned that, amid the first full-scale international aggression in Europe since the end of the Second World War, the very future of the rules-based world order now hangs in the balance.

Ukraine’s representative, taking the floor first, thanked the Secretary-General for his strong stance in support of peace and the United Nations Charter. While Ukraine has activated its right to self-defence in line with the Charter, he urged the Assembly to demand an end to all acts of aggression against a sovereign and independent State. Indeed, should the United Nations fail to respond to the crisis, it will face much more than criticism — it will face oblivion.

“If Ukraine does not survive, international peace will not survive,” he stressed.

The representative of the Russian Federation, rebuking those comments, said the root of the current crisis lies instead with Ukraine itself. Kyiv flouted the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, failed to engage in dialogue with the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and turned a blind eye to the people of Donbas. Against that backdrop, President Vladimir Putin decided to react.

“There is a need to de-Nazify Ukraine,” he stressed, adding that his country is exercising its right to self-defence from Ukraine, which strives to obtain nuclear weapons, seeks North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership and is making false territorial claims against the Russian Federation.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, condemned in the strongest possible terms the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russian armed forces.

Also condemning the involvement of Belarus in that aggression, he declared:  “Russia bears full responsibility for this aggression and the resulting destruction and loss of life.”

Moscow must immediately cease its military operations and unconditionally withdraw all forces and military equipment from Ukraine, while engaging in earnest in dialogue with a view to a diplomatic solution.

“The use of force and coercion to change borders has no place in the twenty-first century,” he added.

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