Kyiv’s Permanent Representative Tells Council President, ‘Your Words Have Less Value Than a Hole in a New York Pretzel’
Meeting today amid the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, the Security Council rejected a draft resolution intended to end the Russian Federation’s military offensive against that neighbouring State.
The draft, submitted by Albania and the United States, garnered support from 11 members but was vetoed by the Russian Federation. China, India and the United Arab Emirates all abstained.
Also by the draft, the 15-member Council would have deplored, in the strongest terms, the Russian Federation’s aggression as being in violation of Article 2, paragraph 4 of the Charter of the United Nations — an obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.
The draft would also have the Council decide that the Russian Federation should immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine, and withdraw all its military forces immediately, completely, and unconditionally from that country’s territory.
Similarly, the draft would have the Council deplore the Russian Federation’s 21 February decision related to the status of certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions and decide that Moscow must immediately and unconditionally reverse that decision as it violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
By other terms of the draft, the Council would have called upon the parties to abide by the Minsk agreements and to work constructively in relevant international frameworks, including the Normandy Format (France, Germany, Russian Federation) and the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine, Russian Federation, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)).
In addition, the Council would have called upon all parties to allow and facilitate the rapid, safe and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to those in need, to protect civilians, including humanitarian personnel, and persons in vulnerable situations, including children.
The Council would also have urged continued efforts by the Secretary-General, Member States, OSCE and other international and regional organizations, to support de-escalation in the current situation, as well as United Nations efforts to respond to the humanitarian and refugee crisis created by the Russian Federation’s aggression.
Today’s vote followed two late-night emergency meetings on the situation in Ukraine, on 21 and 23 February. The Russian Federation announced a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine while the second emergency meeting was in session. (See Press Releases SC/14798 of 21 February and SC/14803 of 23 February.)
Speaking before the vote, the representative of the United States said her country and Albania proposed the draft resolution to hold the Russian Federation accountable. Council members should vote “yes” if they believe in upholding the Charter and supporting Ukraine’s or any State’s sovereignty, and otherwise vote “no” or abstain if they do not, she added.
Albania’s delegate stated that today will be long remembered as future generations will see who stood up for respecting human life and international law, and who did not.
Following the vote, the Russian Federation’s delegate explained that his delegation voted against the draft, as it contravenes the interests of the Ukrainian people — who have experienced a tragedy over the last eight years. He said the negative vote is due to what was left out of the text: that those who seized power in the coup d’état of 2014 have shelled the people of Donetsk and Luhansk; that Ukraine did not implement the Minsk agreements; and that neo-Nazis and militias continue to kill civilians, adding to such blood-chilling crimes as sniper attacks on protestors in the Maidan. How can there be a resolution without such issues? he asked.
He went on to emphasize that his country’s troops are not bombing cities nor targeting civilians. Noting the difficulty of competing with the United States, which excels in the number of invasions it has undertaken, he said Washington, D.C., is in no position to moralize. Moscow’s objectives will soon be achieved and the citizens of Ukraine will be able to determine their future, he added.
The United Kingdom’s delegate noted that whereas a large majority of Council members voted in favour of a draft resolution aimed at stopping war, the text was not adopted because of a single veto by a permanent member who perpetrated that conflict. That country’s claim that its invasion is in self-defence is “absurd”, she said.
China’s representative said he abstained because the Council’s response should be taken with great caution, with actions to defuse and not add fuel to the fire. Ukraine should be a bridge between the East and the West, not an outpost for major Powers, he added.
Ukraine’s representative, thanking those who supported the draft resolution, recalled multiple instances when his Russian counterpart denied intention of invasion, adding: “Your words have less value than a hole in a New York pretzel.” He argued that the Russian Federation’s presidency violates Rule 20 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure as that delegation cannot preside over an issue directly connected to its State. He went on to emphasize that nothing justifies today’s shelling of a kindergarten and an orphanage. War crimes and violations of the Rome Statute will be sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, he added.
He deplored that what may stop the war will unfortunately be the bodies of thousands of Russian soldiers delivered home to their mothers, he continued, pointing out that thousands of Ukrainians have joined the territorial defence force — proof that the country will never surrender, even if temporarily occupied.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Gabon, Mexico, Brazil, India, Norway, Ireland, France, Ghana, United Arab Emirates and Kenya.
The meeting began at 5:10 p.m. and ended at 6:59 p.m.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), speaking in explanation of position before the vote, said the Council was meeting because of the Russian Federation’s unprovoked, unjustified and unconscionable war on Ukraine — a war of choice. Moscow chose to invade its neighbour, inflicting untold suffering on Ukraine’s people and its own citizens, while violating that country’s sovereignty, international law and the Charter of the United Nations, she pointed out. Noting that people are fleeing for their lives from Kyiv and Kharkiv with only the belongings in their backpacks, she said they are turning subway stations into bomb shelters. There have been attacks on kindergartens and newborns are being taken to intensive care, she added, describing scenes of fathers sobbing as they send their children away while they stay behind to defend their country. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), she noted, 50,000 people have fled in less than 48 hours, while citizens in the Russian Federation protest against President Vladimir Putin.
Recalling that the Council was created to prevent exactly this kind of aggression, she emphasized: “We have a solemn obligation to not look away.” Ukrainians experiencing the horrors of war will need food, water, shelter and medical aid. She went on to state that the United States and Albania proposed the draft resolution holding the Russian Federation to account, affirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and demanding that Moscow immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraws its forces. She noted that many States are taking other actions to impose upon the Russian Federation severe and immediate economic costs, financial sanctions and export controls to cut off access to vital technological input, as well as to curb its strategic ambitions to exert influence on the world stage.
Noting that the President of the United States announced sanctions against President Putin, Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey V. Lavrov, and other government members, she declared: “History will judge us for our actions, or lack thereof.” Describing the notion that all parties are culpable as “a clear cop-out”, she stressed that the Russian Federation is the aggressor, and there is no middle ground. As for the idea that a special history between the Russian Federation and Ukraine justifies Moscow’s action, she said: “Think about who might be next”, pointing out President Putin just threatened Finland and Sweden with military and political repercussions. She called upon Council members to vote “yes” if they believe in upholding the Charter, in supporting Ukraine’s or any State’s right to sovereignty, and in holding the Russian Federation to account, and to vote “no” or abstain if they do not.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), endorsing the statement delivered by the representative of the United States, said that, as the Council meets, Ukraine is being bombed and its people killed. A European country is being destroyed by its more powerful neighbour, which has decided it wants to turn the historical clock backwards, he added. A permanent member of the Council, he emphasized, has decided to rule and inflict death and untold pain, “staining the Charter of the United Nations with innocent blood” and burying it under the rubble of Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine. Underscoring that “it is not too late to stop this madness”, he said today’s resolution calls upon the Russian Federation to cease its aggression, withdraw its forces, abide by the Minsk agreement and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to a number in need that is growing by the hour in Ukraine. “This is the minimum we can do,” he added, stressing: “We owe it to Ukraine, its people and the world.” He went on to state that today will be long remembered, as future generations will see who stood up for respecting human life and international law, and who did not.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), citing the text of the United Nations Charter, underlined its fundamental purpose: to protect people from violence and conflict. Noting that civilians all over Ukraine are currently sheltering from the Russian Federation’s military onslaught, she recalled that Moscow first claimed that the controversy around Ukraine was a result of “Western hysteria”, then it was about Donetsk and Luhansk. “Now, they are bombing Kyiv,” she said, pointing out that Ukraine is being attacked on all fronts as the world witnesses “dreadful images of tanks crushing civilians in the capital”. The rules-based international order must be defended, she emphasized. “Otherwise, who might be next?” Praising the brave Russian citizens protesting their country’s aggression, she said it is clear that President Putin has launched a massive offensive to remove the Government of Ukraine and subjugate its people. “No fog of war is thick enough to obscure a truth this clear,” she stressed, condemning “this unprovoked, unjustified war”.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) said the Security Council finds itself face to face with its responsibility to reaffirm the very principles that undergird its existence. Recalling that the United Nations was founded on the ashes of war, and that its main aim is to prevent any act of belligerence, he emphasized that the world needs neither war nor any new sources of fear. Describing the traumas of war as devastating and irreparable, he said Gabon is wedded to peace and the principles of the Charter and condemns the war against a Member of the United Nations. The international community is called upon to seize this momentum, he said, stressing that throughout the world, any war of choice, war of hegemony, or any war, is dehumanizing. “The international stage should not be the reflection of a jungle where nations are either predators or prey.” Reiterating calls for an immediate ceasefire and for de-escalation, he said the belligerents should not hinder humanitarian aid to those in need. The responsibilities assumed today should always be reflected in the renewal of the international community’s commitments to save present and succeeding generations from the scourge of war, he added.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), explaining his delegation’s intention to vote in favour of the draft resolution, said the current aggression violates the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX). He recalled the invasions of his country by the United States and France, noting that it lost a large part of its territory. Mexico rejects the use of force, he said, emphasizing that its foreign policy is based on peace, founded on the Charter. Condemning the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, he called on the parties to end hostilities.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said the Council should strive to demonstrate united resolve in seeking agreement on the Ukraine crisis, with the priority being to stop the ongoing hostilities. It must react swiftly on the use of force against the territorial integrity of a Member State and setting the conditions for dialogue, he said, cautioning that threats and force will not lead to a lasting settlement of the crisis. The Council’s mission is not over, he emphasized, adding: “If our efforts have so far failed to prevent a war, we should strive to restore peace to Ukraine; there is no alternative to negotiation to solve the present crisis.” Recalling the Russian Federation’s previously stated concerns about the strategic balance in Europe, he said that does not give Moscow the right to do what it is doing now. In the end, peace and international order must prevail, he said, stressing “we will not rest” until that mission is accomplished.
The Council then rejected the text by a vote of 1 against (Russian Federation) to 11 in favour, with 3 abstentions (China, India, United Arab Emirates).
Mr. HOXHA (Albania) expressed regret that the Russian Federation’s representative wielded the veto. The text was blocked, but this is not the end of efforts to stop Moscow’s aggression, he said, adding that his delegation continues to condemn it. History shows no country can kill freedom, he emphasized, pledging that Albania stands ready to shelter Ukrainians fleeing to safety.
Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that, unsurprisingly, the Russian Federation used veto power to defend its unconscionable aggression. “Let me be clear,” she said, “you can veto the resolution” — but not Member States’ voices, the truth, or principles, nor can it veto the Charter or the principle of accountability. Responsible Council member States will stand with Ukraine despite a reckless and irresponsible permanent member abusing its power to attack its neighbour and subvert the Charter, she emphasized, noting that the matter will be addressed in the General Assembly, where the Russian Federation’s veto does not apply. She recalled that President Biden spoke with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, to commend the tremendous courage shown by the Ukrainian people, and to underline ongoing multilevel support. She went on to commend people in the Russian Federation protesting the war despite grave risks to their personal safety. “As we move forward, I hope more Member States take their cues from this courage and honour all of this bravery with more of our own,” she said.
T.S. TIRUMURTI (India) said his delegation is disturbed by developments in Ukraine and called for efforts be made to ensure an immediate cessation of hostilities. He also expressed concern about the welfare and security of Ukraine’s Indian community. Noting that the contemporary global order is built on the United Nations Charter, international law and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, he said that, as such, all Member States must honour those principles in seeking a way forward. Dialogue is the only way to settle disputes, he emphasized, expressing regret that diplomacy was abandoned and calling for a return to that path. It was for those reasons that India chose to abstain from today’s vote.
Ms. WOODWARD (United Kingdom), speaking after the vote, said that a large majority of the Council voted in favour of a resolution aimed at stopping war; however, it was not adopted because of a single veto by a permanent member who perpetrated that conflict. While the Russian Federation claims its invasion is in self-defence, she stressed, “This is absurd. Its only act of self-defence is the vote they’ve cast against the resolution.” She went on to state that the Russian Federation is isolated and has received no support for its invasion of Ukraine. “History will record how we voted, and which countries stood up to be counted in defence of the United Nations Charter,” she said. The United Kingdom stands steadfast in support of the Ukrainian people and will hold the Russian Federation accountable for this aggression.
MONA JUUL (Norway), speaking after the vote, said she voted in favour of the draft resolution, and expressed deep regret about the Russian Federation’s veto, stating that a veto cast by the aggressor undermines the purpose of the Security Council, to prevent and end acts of aggression. It is a violation of the very foundation of the United Nations Charter. Further, she pointed out that the Russian Federation, as a party, should have abstained from voting on this draft resolution. Recalling the sight of the “shocking first images” on 23 February of “what now amounts to a full-scale Russian invasion of a free and independent United Nations Member State”, she said Moscow’s aggression — with its tanks, missiles, bombs, planes, warships and cyberattacks — violates the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine and constitutes a serious breach to international peace and security. Norway insists that the Russian Federation immediately, completely and unconditionally stop all fighting and withdraw all forces from the territory of Ukraine and expresses full solidarity with the Ukrainian people in the face of this aggression. She expressed deep concern about the protracted harm to civilians caused by the warfare, which is unfolding in and around urban areas. She also condemned Belarus for facilitating the attack. Norway will join its allies and partners in swift and concrete countermeasures, including the intensified sanctions of the European Union.
JIM KELLY (Ireland), speaking after the vote, said his country voted in favour of the draft resolution in response to the flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter, of international law and of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Moscow has turned its back on diplomacy, spurning genuine offers of dialogue and rejecting repeated calls from the international community for de-escalation. “It has launched an unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine; an attack that continues today to rain death and destruction on Ukraine and its people,” he said, condemning such actions and expressing full solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Noting that the Council has a responsibility to act in the face of conflict, to protect international peace and security and to uphold the principles the world agreed upon in response to the utter devastation of the Second World War, he stressed that Ireland was prevented from discharging this responsibility today, despite the clear and declared will of a majority of this Council’s members. Expressing deep regret for the Russian Federation’s use of the veto, which he called “an anachronism”, he said its use in “blatant defence of military aggression is reprehensible”. Ireland strongly supports the comprehensive sanctions announced by the European Union on 24 February and stands ready to support further measures if Moscow does not reverse course. Calling the unfolding horror in recent days a tragedy for the people of Ukraine and a nightmare for Europe, he stressed: “Only dialogue and diplomacy offer escape from those nightmares.”
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said no Council member supports the Russian Federation’s current actions in Ukraine. Regarding the vote on the resolution, he condemned the Russian Federation’s use of the veto. Indeed, “the Russian Federation is alone”, riding roughshod over its responsibilities to the Council and violating the United Nations Charter, he said, adding that France and its partners will continue to cooperate in its support for Ukraine.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said his delegation voted in favour of the text because it is a minimum duty his country owes to the United Nations Charter. The Russian Federation breached Article 2, paragraph 4 of the Charter. It also threatened the global order and the balance of peace and security, he stressed, calling on Moscow to withdraw its forces and recommit to dialogue. The Russian Federation had explained that its military build-up along the border with Ukraine was a normal military exercise, and the country had no intention of crossing the border. Now, the whole world knows better. The Russian Federation breached trust, which is crucial for diplomacy. Ghana is deeply disappointed by the actions of a permanent member — a guardian of peace and security — which bears not only a special privilege but also a special responsibility.
Mr. COSTA FILHO (Brazil) expressed regret that the Council was unable to react to an ongoing breach of international peace and security. During negotiations, Brazil favoured a text that could be agreed upon by all parties while sending a message to save the world from a war of wide proportions. However, framing the current use of force as an act of aggression — a precedent seldom used in the Council — signals its gravity, but may also downplay other times when acts upon Member States see no similar reaction. Under the current circumstances, not even a different text could have seen the Council fulfil its responsibility, he said, warning that the body’s paralysis when world peace is at stake can ultimately lead to its irrelevance when it is most needed in the future.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), noting that her country has consistently called for de-escalation and dialogue throughout this crisis, emphasized the importance of ensuring that humanitarian assistance reaches those in need, and called on all parties to respect international humanitarian law. Every Member State has the right to security, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. As a Middle Eastern country, the United Arab Emirates is aware of the critical importance of ensuring a regional security environment based on de-escalation, diplomacy and dialogue. She expressed support for the draft resolution’s emphasis on the need to adhere to international law and the Charter of the United Nations, which must be the basis for resumed dialogue and the path forward now that the text has not been adopted. While noting that “the results of the vote were a foregone conclusion”, she stressed that avenues for dialogue and diplomacy must remain open.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya), speaking after the vote, said his country voted in favour of the resolution to affirm Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, as it opposed the breaching of a Member State’s sovereignty. As Kenya voted, he said, its heart was heavy with sympathy for the people of Ukraine. It also bore in mind past interventions by States, which led to terrible turmoil, including the hasty, ill-considered intervention in Libya 10 years ago, which did not lead to peace and safety, but rather unleashed terror, including in countries to the south of that country. Without urgent leadership pushing in the opposite direction, today’s action leaves the fabric of the United Nations Charter “torn and trampled”, he stressed, adding: “If the United Nations Charter could speak for itself, it would vote for the resolution […], and it would remind all members of the Council — and the United Nations — that it contains tools for the pacific settlement of their disputes by negotiation” and other peaceful means. He expressed deep regret that the Council today failed to stop the infringement of the sovereignty of a Member State of the United Nations.
ZHANG JUN (China) expressed deep concern over the situation in Ukraine. “China always forms its own position on the basis of the merits of the matter at hand”, he said, noting that it respects the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and the Charter of the United Nations. Parties should address concerns through peaceful means, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. In the past week, the Security Council has held two emergency meetings and all parties have elaborated their positions and concerns on the current situation. Faced with a complex situation, the Council should make a necessary response. That response should be taken with great caution, with actions that defuse, not add fuel. As such, China abstained from the vote, he said, stressing that the issue of Ukraine is not one that emerged today; nor did the current situation emerge suddenly overnight. Rather, it represents the interplay of various factors over a long period of time. Stressing that the security of one country cannot come at the cost of that of another, he said Ukraine should be a bridge between the East and the West, not an “outpost for major Powers”. He urged all parties to engage in dialogue and consultation for a comprehensive settlement of the Ukraine issue.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for February, explained in his national capacity his delegation’s vote against the resolution. Emphasizing that the resolution runs counter to the interests of the Ukrainian people — who have experienced a tragedy over the last eight years — he said the negative vote is due to what was left out of the text: that those who seized power in the coup of 2014 had shelled the people of Donetsk and Luhansk; that Ukraine, with the West’s support, did not implement the Minsk agreements; and that neo-Nazis and militias continue to kill civilians, adding to such blood-chilling crimes as sniper attacks on Maidan protestors. How can there be a resolution without such issues, he wondered, adding that Western partners have issued a carte blanche to Kyiv to attack the Russian language. The authorities have been murdering political opponents and shuttering media outlets, making Ukraine a pawn in their game. The responsibility lies with the Government of Ukraine, “but also lies at your feet”, he said, noting that the resolution is yet another brutal move on the chess board.
Urging neighbours not to yield to provocation, he recalled that President Vladimir Putin said strikes would not target civilians. Actors, however, are using civilians as human shields and are using rocket launchers, violating the Geneva Conventions. Indeed, the situation is being exploited by political and media outlets, he said, citing examples of the “height of propaganda”, including the misuse of images from Donbas as demonstrations of Russian aggression. In this vein, he pointed to the British Broadcasting Corporation, which had published an article revealing that many images were being misused. Responding to statements by his counterparts from France, the United Kingdom and the United States, he said the Russian Federation’s troops are not bombing cities nor targeting civilians. Noting the difficulty of competing with the United States in terms of the number of its invasions, he said Washington, D.C., is in no position to moralize. The objectives will soon be achieved, and the citizens will be able to determine their future, he said.
Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) took the floor for a third time to acknowledge the text’s co-sponsors whose names were left out in the initial announcement.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said he would not dignify the Russian Federation delegate’s diabolical script as anything more than “a letter of application for an upscale seat in hell”. Instead, he thanked the parents of every ambassador present in the Council, and the people of democratic nations who put them in their seats, who should be proud of those who voted in favour of the resolution. The draft recalled the obligation of all States under Article 2 of the Charter to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or independence of any State and called on the Russian Federation to halt the aggression.
Recalling the 23 February emergency Council session, during which Moscow launched deadly air strikes and crossed the border into Ukraine, also launching missiles from Belarus, he stressed that “last night was the most horrific for Kyiv since 1941”. Despite claims to fight neo-Nazism, the Russian Federation seems keen on a Nazi-style course of action. Recalling multiple instances when that representative said there would be no invasion, he charged: “your words have less value than a hole in a New York pretzel”. The Russian Federation’s presidency of the Council for February violates Rule 20 of its Provisional Rules of Procedure, he noted, as that delegate cannot preside during an issue directly connected to his State. Given the lack of adherence to the rules of order, he would also “be unruly”, he said, asking the Council to dedicate a moment of complete silence, in prayer or meditation, for the souls of those who have been or may be killed, inviting the Russian Federation delegate to pray for salvation.
The representative of the Russian Federation asked the Council to also pray for those who had perished in Donbas.
Mr. KYSLYTSYA of Ukraine continued that he was saddened to see a small handful of delegates tolerating the war, as they should oppose it to protect their own nationals in that country. Nothing justifies today’s shelling of a kindergarten and orphanage — war crimes and violations of the Rome Statute, which will be sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He further cited the deliberate shelling of a Moldovan-flagged chemical vessel with its own Russian crew, as well as a Panamanian-flagged vessel, and the seizure of the Chernobyl nuclear plant site, detaining its staff. Control levels of gamma radiation in the exclusion zone have already been exceeded.
With 140 killed and over 300 wounded on the Ukrainian side since midnight, he warned there will be no hospitality for Russian troops on its territory. Referring to the delegate’s reading of the Charter as “lunacy”, he cautioned that what may stop the war, unfortunately, will be the bodies of thousands of Russian soldiers delivered home to their mothers. Thousands of Ukrainians have joined the territorial defence forces, proof the country will never surrender even if temporarily occupied. Calling for an end to the harassment of the Secretary-General and respect for the institution, he said Ukraine remains open for negotiations, “but do not put words in our mouths.” He referred to Moscow’s call on Ukrainian forces to remove that Government as “crazy”, stating: “It is so painful to think about what your family thinks of you, when you lie every day.”
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Council President for February, re-taking the floor in his national capacity, while noting that there is much on which to comment following the statement by the representative of Ukraine, said he would “leave the boorishness” on the latter’s conscience. He also pointed out that units of a Russian paratrooper division took control of the area surrounding the Chernobyl power plant on 24 February. The Russian Federation “does not want Ukraine to generate a dirty bomb”, he said, and personnel are monitoring the radioactive situation. He went on to recall that the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that the level of radiation at the power plant is low and does not pose a threat to the population.