Security Council Calls Emergency Special Session of General Assembly on Ukraine Crisis, Adopting Resolution 2623 (2022) by 11 Votes in Favour, 1 Against, 3 Abstentions
Kyiv’s Permanent Representative Condemns Moscow’s ‘Nuclear Blackmail’, Russian Counterpart Says Ukraine Nationalists to Blame for Attacks on Civilians
The Security Council, at its fourth meeting on the situation in Ukraine in the last week, called an emergency special session of the General Assembly in the next 24 hours at which the world body can decide whether to use armed force, when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.
By a recorded vote of 11 in favour to 1 against (Russian Federation), with 3 abstentions (China, India, United Arab Emirates), the Council adopted resolution 2623 (2022) (to be issued as document S/RES/2623(2022), taking into account that the lack of unanimity of its permanent members at its meeting on 25 February has prevented it from exercising its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. (For details of that meeting, see Press Release SC/14808.)
The procedural resolution precludes the use of a veto by the Council’s permanent members (China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States). An emergency special session of the General Assembly shall be called if requested by the Security Council on the vote of any nine members, or by a majority of the members of the United Nations.
[The Security Council had last called for convening an emergency special session of the General Assembly in 1982, with regard to the situation involving Syria and Israel, and in 1980, after the outbreak of the Soviet-Afghan war, when the former Soviet Union vetoed a draft resolution, leading members to invoke General Assembly resolution 377A(V), “Uniting for peace”, adopted in 1950.]
Under General Assembly resolution 377A(V), the world body resolved that if the Council, because of lack of unanimity of the permanent members, fails to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security in any case where there appears to be a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, it shall consider the matter immediately with a view to making appropriate recommendations to members for collective measures. This includes, in a case of a breach of the peace or act of aggression, the use of armed force when necessary, to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Following the adoption, Council members explained their positions.
The delegate from the Russian Federation, Council President for February, spoke in his national capacity, saying that each permanent member has a right to use the veto for such specific reasons as achieving global stability. Any attempt to circumvent the Russian Federation’s rights in this regard only undermines the Charter of the United Nations, he said, adding that the veto is not a privilege, but rather a mechanism to ensure balance in the world. The goal is to find common ground, unlike the actions of some Western members, which have blocked the Russian Federation’s concerns about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Urging members to stop aiding and abetting the current social media misinformation war against the Russian Federation, he said: “We hear lies and deceit about the indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian facilities, hospitals and schools” when “the Russian army does not threaten civilians in Ukraine; it does not shell civilian infrastructure”. Instead, it is the Ukrainian “nationalists” who are using civilians as humans shields and deploying rocket launchers in civilian areas — acts that are used by terrorists and must be condemned, he said.
China’s delegate, reiterating that his delegation’s unchanged position remains about the situation in Ukraine, said the priority is for all parties to do all they can to prevent the situation from deteriorating. At the same time, the Council must prioritize regional peace and play a constructive role in resolving the situation, with efforts facilitating a diplomatic solution. Efforts must also address Russian Federation and European security-related concerns.
Several members rejected the Russian Federation’s use of veto on the 25 February draft resolution aimed at ending the violence and called on Moscow to end its aggression against and engage in dialogue with Ukraine. Reiterating his delegation’s strong commitment against veto use in the Council since 1945, Mexico’s representative said it is not a privilege, but an enormous responsibility, especially when used by one of the parties involved in the situation concerned.
France’s delegate said the Russian Federation’s veto on 25 February only prevents the Council from exercising its responsibility to uphold international peace and security. Noting that President Emmanuel Macron has called for a Council meeting on 28 February to address the humanitarian situation, he said France and Mexico have co-sponsored a related draft resolution calling for unfettered access to meet the needs of the people in Ukraine.
The speaker for the United States said the Russian Federation may have vetoed Friday’s resolution, but Moscow cannot veto the Ukrainian people and cannot veto the United Nations Charter. Recalling President Vladimir Putin’s declaration that nuclear weapons will be put on alert, she called on Moscow to tone down such dangerous rhetoric, which threatens all nations. The world must show Ukrainians they are not alone and that the United Nations has a purpose, she said, noting that the United States has contributed $350 million in aid, including security assistance, and stressing: “Let us do everything we can to help the people of Ukraine.”
In a similar vein, Brazil’s representative said: “Let us be exceedingly cautious in the General Assembly,” warning that such measures as cyberattacks and sanctions can jeopardize the situation, potentially leading to famine and enhancing the risk of direct confrontation between the Russian Federation and NATO. He also thanked nations welcoming the more than 420,000 refugees that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported are currently fleeing the conflict. Norway’s representative also raised concerns about the plight of the Ukrainian people, announcing that Oslo is providing $226 million in humanitarian aid. Reiterating other Council members’ calls, she insisted that the Russian Federation unconditionally stops fighting and withdraws all its forces from the territory of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s representative thanked delegates who voted to call a General Assembly emergency special session and told those who appeared to see no reason to do so to look at the images of what is unfolding across his country, where day to day, night to night, citizens face warnings of air raids and are asked to proceed to shelters. Elaborating on other consequences of violence across Ukraine, he voiced extreme alarm at the Russian Federation’s “nuclear blackmail”, a threat the world must take very seriously. Those who see what is taking place can find no justification for the attack against his country, he said, emphasizing that Ukraine has filed a case against the Russian Federation at the International Court of Justice. “Ukraine will bring the Russian Federation to account,” he declared.
Also speaking tonight were representatives of Albania, Ireland, United Kingdom, India, Gabon, United Arab Emirates and Ghana.
The meeting began at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 4:05 p.m.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), explaining her delegation’s position, said the Russian Federation had vetoed Friday’s resolution, but Moscow cannot veto the Ukrainian people and cannot veto the Charter of the United Nations. The Council has, for the first time in decades, called for an emergency special session, she said, recalling that today, President Vladimir Putin announced that nuclear weapons were put on alert. This additional step “threatens us all”, she said, calling on the Russian Federation to tone down its dangerous rhetoric on the use of nuclear weapons. Member States will vote on a resolution that holds the Russian Federation to account for its violations of the United Nations Charter, she said, stressing that rockets continue to rein down on Ukraine, Moscow continues to propagate outrageous lies about Kyiv’s conduct in its defence and videos continue to show that Russian forces are bringing lethal weaponry into Ukraine.
To the Russian officers and soldiers, she said: “the world is watching”, photographic and video evidence is mounting, and “you will be held accountable; we will not let atrocities slide.” Noting that the United States has already sent humanitarian aid, she said $350 million in security assistance is on its way to Ukraine. Member States have shown strength and can look at the Ukrainian people for the inspiration, she said, welcoming Ukraine’s continued willingness to partake in peace talks. Recalling the recent birth of the baby named Mia, born in a bomb shelter in Kyiv, she said the world must show Ukrainians they are not alone, that the United Nations has a purpose, emphasizing: “Let us do everything we can to help the people of Ukraine.”
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said this procedural resolution was short in nature but historic in meaning. The United Nations needs the General Assembly to speak out against a pure act of aggression, upholding the United Nations Charter and sending a clear message of what is and is not acceptable. The Russian Federation must be stopped in its attempt to break the international rules-based order. It is time to learn from past mistakes and not repeat them. The Russian Federation can at any moment return to reason. It must reverse its actions, join peace, and not threaten an apocalypse, he said, adding that “it is time to stand up”.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), recalling that the Russian Federation alone on Friday blocked a resolution co-sponsored by 82 Member States of the United Nations, said France cannot accept this action, which prevents the Council from exercising its responsibility to uphold international peace and security. Stating that France’s President Emmanuel Macron called for a Council meeting tomorrow to address the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, he added that his country has co-sponsored with Mexico a resolution for unfettered humanitarian access to meet the needs of the people in Ukraine. France stands steadfastly with Ukraine and its people.
JIM KELLY (Ireland) condemned the unjustified and unprovoked attack by the Russian Federation on Ukraine, which has intensified since Friday, causing great hardship for the people of Ukraine, who have shown remarkable resilience and resolve. Ireland expresses its full solidarity with the people of Ukraine. The Council has a responsibility to act in the face of this conflict and to respond to the grave threat to international peace and security, he said, noting that it was rendered powerless to do so despite the resolve of 11 of its members, due to the use of the veto by a permanent member which flagrantly excused its own military attempt. “The use of its anachronistic veto in such tragic circumstances undermines the legitimacy of the Council in the eyes of the watching world,” he stressed, adding that such actions will not deter attempts by Council members to hold the Russian Federation accountable for its actions. Therefore, Ireland voted in favour of the resolution to call an emergency special session of the General Assembly, he said, calling on fellow Member States to step up where the Council failed, to uphold the United Nations Charter, and support the return to the path of diplomacy and peace.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) said his delegation strongly supports invoking General Assembly resolution 377A (V), “Uniting for Peace”, to convene the eleventh special session of the world body. Since 1945, Mexico has maintained an unwavering stance on the use of the veto, which should not be a privilege. Rather it constitutes an enormous responsibility, especially when used by one of the parties involved in the situation concerned. Echoing France’s statement, he said a meeting will also be convened to assess the humanitarian situation on the ground to determine needs.
ZHANG JUN (China), noting that his delegation’s position on the situation in Ukraine remains unchanged, said the priority is for all parties to do all they can to prevent the situation from deteriorating. China welcomes the earliest possible direct dialogue between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. At the same time, China supports talks with the Russian Federation and Europe to form a balanced security mechanism. The Security Council should prioritize regional peace and stability and play a constructive role in resolving the situation in Ukraine, he said, emphasizing that efforts must facilitate a diplomatic solution.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that voting in favour of convening a special session demonstrates that the Russian Federation is isolated in voting against it. As each day passes in this unjustified war, support for the Ukrainian people grows, she said, urging all United Nations Member States to use their voices on Monday to call on the Russian Federation to end the war.
T. S. TIRUMURTI (India) expressed regret that the situation in Ukraine has worsened since the Council last convened on Friday and called for an immediate cessation of violence and an end to hostilities. There is no choice but to return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue. He welcomed the announcement of talks on the Belarus-Ukraine border and reaffirmed his commitment to a global order agreed on the principles of the United Nations Charter. He went on to express deep concern about the safety and security of a large number of Indian nationals — including students — in Ukraine, pointing out that attempts to evacuate them have been impacted by the complex situation at the border. Their situation must urgently be addressed. Considering the totality of circumstances, India decided to abstain from the vote.
MONA JUUL (Norway), recalling that the Russian Federation was isolated in the last meeting of the Council two days ago, stressed that its action is unacceptable and violates the core principles of international law that the United Nations stands for. On Friday, the Council failed in its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, due to a veto by the aggressor, she said, adding that this made it necessary to reconvene an emergency special session of the General Assembly with the purpose of making recommendations for collective measures to address the situation. Expressing deep concern at the alarm at the protracted harm experienced by the civilian population as a consequence of the horrifying conflict, she said that Norway is providing $226 million in humanitarian aid to help the Ukrainian people. Norway insists that the Russian Federation unconditionally stops fighting and withdraws all its forces from the territory of Ukraine, she stressed.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), recalling that according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 420,000 refugees are currently fleeing the conflict, underlined the Security Council’s important role. While the current situation in Ukraine requires adding the voice of the General Assembly, he said the Council, as the primary entity responsible for international peace and security, has yet to use all the tools available to restore peace. The Council must work towards bringing a peaceful solution through, among other things, dialogue between the parties, he said, also calling for a ceasefire and for Ukraine and the Russian Federation to let all persons wishing to leave to do so. He thanked Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Republic of Moldova and other States providing refuge for those fleeing the conflict. “Let us be exceedingly cautious in the General Assembly,” he said, warning that such measures as cyberattacks and sanctions can jeopardize the situation, potentially leading to famine and enhancing the risk of direct confrontation between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). “We need to engage in serious negotiations that could allow the restoration of Ukraine’s territory and strategic security in Europe.”
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon), raising grave concerns about ongoing violence and the consequences facing Ukrainians, recalled that thousands are fleeing the country. Pointing to reports of attacks against civilians, she called for a cessation of violence. There is an urgent need for an immediate ceasefire and the start of frank dialogue, she said, adding that it is always better to choose discussions over confrontation.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) expressed regret about the worsening conflict, calling for the cessation of hostilities and for the return to dialogue and diplomacy. Welcoming the announcement of talks on the Ukraine-Belarus border, he underlined the importance of securing regional peace and security, amid an escalation in the security situation. Civilians must be able to leave Ukraine unhindered, the space for humanitarian assistance must be preserved, and the necessary aid must be delivered to those in need. He emphasized that international law must be upheld, as must the principles of the United Nations Charter, including respecting the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all Member States.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), observing that the world is living through “dangerous moments”, emphasized the need for diplomacy to triumph over war. Ghana maintains its commitment to dialogue and for the objectives of peace. Last Friday, due to an exercise of the veto, the Council was unable to act on its primary responsibility, to act in response to a threat to international peace, following the Russian Federation’s aggression upon Ukraine. Therefore, it is time for the General Assembly to pronounce on the matter, which is why Ghana voted in favour of the resolution just adopted. Noting that all Member States agreed to the terms of the United Nations Charter, he said: “Today, the peace we say we love is threatened.” He called on all Member States to participate in the session in a constructive manner and take steps to stop the unjustified assault that is needlessly costing lives.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), recalling the Council’s meeting on 25 February, said there was no hint at even an attempt to reach a constructive solution, leading to his delegation blocking the draft resolution because of its one-sidedness. The Council has the vested right of permanent members to block drafts for a reason, among them being to achieve global stability, he said, adding that any attempt to circumvent the Russian Federation’s rights in this regard only undermines the United Nations Charter. The veto is not a privilege, but rather a mechanism to ensure balance in the world. The goal is to find common ground, unlike the actions of some Western members, which have blocked the Russian Federation’s concerns about NATO, he continued.
This crisis broke out must earlier than in 2022, he said, noting that no one tonight had even raised the issue of the suffering facing the people of Donbas, turning a blind eye for the past eight years to the Ukrainian armed forces’ destruction of homes and claiming Russian forces are responsible. Instead, “we hear lies and deceit about the indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian facilities, hospitals and schools,” he said, stressing that “the Russian army does not threaten civilians in Ukraine. It does not shell civilian infrastructure”. Indeed, the Ukrainian “nationalists” are using civilians as humans shields and deploying rocket launchers in civilian areas — acts that are used by ISIL terrorists and must be condemned. The residents of Ukraine are also threatened by radicals, prison escapees and criminals, as witnessed in Kyiv and other cities. Pointing to an ongoing information war against the Russian Federation being unleashed on social media, he pointed to a range of fabricated photos and urged colleagues to not aid and abet the perpetuation of such misinformation.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), expressing gratitude to those who voted to call for the emergency session of the General Assembly, regretted, once again, the lack of proper application of Rule 20 of the Provisional Rules of the Council by the Council President, adding: “It is a relief that this rape [of the Council presidency] will be over in less than 48 hours.” He directed those who appeared to see no reason in supporting the session to the pictures of what is unfolding in Ukraine, where day to day, night to night, citizens face warnings of air raids and are asked to proceed to shelters. “I will continue to invite all Council members to join the catharsis; the purgation of the institution that will save it for the next generation,” he said. Stating that the Russian Federation is persisting in its aggression, he said that its failure has prompted its “mad leadership” in the shelling of civilian areas and critical infrastructure, in retaliation for the resilience demonstrated by Ukrainians. Moreover, he expressed extreme alarm that the Russian President is resorting to “nuclear blackmail”, stressing: “The world must take this threat very seriously”.
Fighting is unfolding across Ukraine, from Kyiv, to cities including Kharkiv in the north-east, as well as in the south, he continued, including through the deployment of long-range aircraft and multiple rocket launcher systems. In the town of Vasylkiv, a recent missile strike hit an oil depot, causing a large-scale fire, while shelling in the city of Kharkiv damaged an oil pipeline. He went on to cite statistics from the Ministry of Education, which reported that 16 children had been killed from 24 February. Moreover, maternity hospitals had ceased to operate due to the security situation in a number of cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv, and as a result, children are being born in bomb shelters, he said. Noting that more than 350,000 children lacked access to education, and that 33 schools were closed due to insecurity in civilian areas, he said he had relayed these appalling facts to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), requesting it to respond to the situation.
Turning to the fighting, which had led to enemy losses amounting to almost 4,300 personnel killed and over 200 taken as prisoners of war, as of early 27 February, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, he noted that “as always”, the Russian Federation is denying such facts. Therefore, Ukraine has opened hotlines, titled “Come back alive from Ukraine”, for the relatives of Russian soldiers who cannot contact them, he said, noting that the hotline received more than 100 calls from Russian mothers within the first hour of its operation. However, the line was subsequently shut down due to the decision of the Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation, he said, before specifying the number for anyone wishing to make inquiries: 380-89-420-1860.
He went on to condemn Belarus’s participation in the armed aggression against Ukraine. Noting that Iskander missiles were fired into Ukraine from Belarus, he said: “What an invitation for the negotiation at the border with Belarus, on the eve of the negotiation.” He noted that Ukraine has filed a case against the Russian Federation at the International Court of Justice, seeking an emergency hearing and requesting an order of provisional measures to be imposed on the country. The Court has jurisdiction to hear the case, he said, pointing to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. However, he pointed out that the Russian Federation has “perverted” the Convention, making an “absurd claim” of alleged genocide as a pretext for its own aggression against Ukraine. “Ukraine will bring the Russian Federation to account,” he said.
Switching to Russian, addressing the Council President, the delegate from the Russian Federation, he said he would be ready to take back his words, uttered in a previous meeting, about parents who must be ashamed by the steps taken by their kin, if the Russian delegate followed the cue of his colleague Oleg Anisimov, who at a recent closed-door meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated: “Those who see what is taking place can find no justification for the attack against Ukraine”. Concluding, he stressed: “One can remain a human being, a person, or one can choose to always defend evil.”