‘Have no illusions’: UN’s major bodies both meet on Ukraine-Russia conflict

NEW YORK CITY — Ukraine’s ambassador told the world that if his country is crushed, international peace and democracy are in peril, as the United Nations General Assembly held a rare emergency session in a day of frenzied diplomacy at the U.N. about the days-old war.

Ukraine “is paying now the ultimate price for freedom and security of itself and all the world,” Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said at the assembly’s first emergency meeting in decades.

“If Ukraine does not survive… international peace will not survive. If Ukraine does not survive, the United Nations will not survive,” he said. “Have no illusions. If Ukraine does not survive, we cannot be surprised if democracy fails next.”

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia reiterated his country’s assertions that what it calls a “special military operation” in defense of two breakaway areas in Ukraine is being misrepresented.

“Russian actions are being distorted and thwarted,” he said.

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ABC News contributor and retired Col. Steve Ganyard explains what the Russian military could do next in Ukraine on Sunday, Feb. 27.

As Russian and Ukrainian officials held talks on the Belarus border, the U.N.’s two major bodies — the 193-nation General Assembly and the more powerful 15-member Security Council — both scheduled meetings Monday on the war. In Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Council voted to hold its own urgent session.

“The guns are talking now, but the path of dialogue must always remain open,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the assembly. “We need peace now.”

The assembly session will give all U.N. members an opportunity to speak about the war and to vote on a resolution later in the week. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday the measure would “hold Russia to account for its indefensible actions and for its violations of the U.N. Charter.”

The Security Council meeting, set for later Monday, was focused on the humanitarian impact of Russia’s invasion. French President Emmanuel Macron sought the session to ensure the delivery of aid to growing numbers of those in need in Ukraine.

French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said Sunday that France and Mexico would propose a resolution “to demand the end of hostilities, protection of civilians, and safe and unhindered humanitarian access to meet the urgent needs of the population.” He said it would probably be put to a vote Tuesday.

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The U.N. has estimated the conflict could produce as many as 4 million refugees, depending how long the invasion continues.

Both meetings follow Russia’s veto Friday of a Security Council resolution demanding that Moscow immediately stop its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops. The vote was 11-1, with China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstaining.

Last week, Ukraine asked for a special session of the General Assembly to be held under the so-called “Uniting for Peace” resolution. It was initiated by the United States and adopted in November 1950 to circumvent vetoes by the Soviet Union during the 1950-53 Korean War.

That resolution gives the General Assembly the power to call an emergency session to consider matters of international peace and security when the Security Council is unable to act because of the lack of unanimity among its five veto-wielding permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

The U.S. ambassador told the council after Sunday’s vote that members had taken an important step forward in holding Russia accountable for its “unjustifiable assault, fabricated out of lies and the rewriting of history,” and now all nations can be heard in the General Assembly.

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The U.S. and European nations agreed to impose the most potentially crippling financial penalties yet on Russia over its unrelenting invasion of Ukraine.

Albanian Ambassador Ferit Hoxha called Sunday’s resolution historic because it “opens the big doors of the place where the world meets — the U.N. General Assembly — to speak out and condemn an unprovoked and unjustified pure act of aggression.”

“Russia must be stopped in its attempt to break the international rules-based order to replace it with its will,” he said. “All member states, especially the small ones like mine which constitute the majority of the U.N., must remember that international law rules and the U.N. Charter are their best friend, their best army, their best defense, their best insurance.”

During the council meeting, many speakers called for diplomatic efforts to peacefully settle the crisis, and said they would be watching Ukraine-Russia meeting expected to take place on the Belarus border Monday.

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