UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a direct, impassioned plea to Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to stop — “in the name of humanity” — the Russian military attack on Ukraine.
Following an emergency Security Council meeting, which coincided with the Russian President’s announcement of military operations against Ukraine, a clearly emotional Guterres said it was “the saddest day” of his tenure as UN chief.
“President Putin, in the name of humanity, return your troops to Russia.”
“The conflict must end now,” he added. Shortly after Putin’s announcement, explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and other cities.
Weeks of intense diplomacy at the UN and elsewhere to prevent war and the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia failed to deter Putin, who had amassed between 150,000 and 200,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders.
The United States said Thursday it would table a resolution condemning Russia’s aggression at the Security Council, and the vote is expected the following day.
“The council will have to act,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. Wednesday’s emergency session included some particularly heated exchanges between Ukrainian and Russian envoys.
“There is no purgatory for war criminals. They’re going straight to hell, Ambassador,” Ukrainian Sergiy Kyslytsya told his Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia.
Nebenzia replied that Moscow’s aggression was not aimed at the Ukrainian people, but rather at “the junta in power in Kiev.
“Speaking to reporters after the session, Guterres said a large-scale war would entail enormous human costs and have a devastating economic impact that would be felt around the world.” meaning… And it will, if it doesn’t stop, cause a level of suffering that Europe has not seen since, at least, the Balkan crisis,” he added.
Warnings of a possible Russian invasion had increased over the weeks as Moscow gathered troops on Ukraine’s borders and earlier this week recognized the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
Putin has braved a barrage of international criticism over the crisis, with some Western leaders saying he was no longer rational.
His announcement of military action came after the Kremlin said rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine had asked Moscow for military aid against Kiev, and ahead of a last-ditch summit with European Union leaders in Brussels, scheduled for Thursday.