UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine Wednesday, Feb. 23, as the General Assembly met in a special session two days before the anniversary of Moscow's attack.
"That invasion is an affront to our collective conscience," Guterres said, calling the anniversary "a grim milestone for the people of Ukraine and for the international community."
As fighting raged on in Ukraine, the General Assembly began debating a motion backed by Kyiv and its allies calling for a "just and lasting peace."
While the measure is not as tough as Ukraine would like, it is hoping that a large majority of UN states will back the non-binding resolution to demonstrate Kyiv has the support of the global community.
Dozens of countries have sponsored the resolution, which stresses "the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."
It reaffirms the UN's "commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine" and calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
It also demands Russia "immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine."
- 'Bleak' prospects -
In his opening remarks, Guterres highlighted the impact on the world of Russia's February 24, 2022 invasion of its neighbor.
He noted that it has generated eight million refugees, and hurt global food and energy supplies in countries far away from the war zone.
"As I said from day one, Russia's attack on Ukraine challenges the cornerstone principles and values of our multilateral system," he said.
"While prospects may look bleak today, we know that genuine, lasting peace must be based on the UN Charter and international law. The longer the fighting continues, the more difficult this work will be," he said.
With the new resolution, Kyiv hopes to garner the support of at least as many nations as in October, when 143 countries voted to condemn Russia's declared annexation of several Ukrainian territories.
China, India and more than 30 other countries have abstained during previous UN votes in support of Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told delegates that they faced a "decisive moment."
"Never in recent history has the line between good and evil been so clear. One country merely wants to live. The other wants to kill and destroy," he said.
- 'Abyss of war' -
As the debate opened, Russia's UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya called Ukraine "neo-Nazi" and accused the West of sacrificing the country and the developing world in their desire to beat Russia.
"They are ready to plunge the entire world into the abyss of war," Nebenzya said, adding that the United States and its allies wanted to shore up their own "hegemony."
"They don't want to have anyone come to the level of governing the planet. They think it's their turf," he said.
But European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rejected that.
"I want to stress it: this war is not a 'European issue'. Nor is it about 'the West versus Russia'," Borrell told the General Assembly.
"No, this illegal war concerns everyone: the North, the South, the East and the West," he said.
The US envoy to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the new vote "would go down in history... We will see where the nations of the world stand on the matter of peace in Ukraine."
"I urge you to vote against -- against any and all hostile amendments that seek to undermine the UN Charter and ignore the truth of this war," she said.
- Call for international tribunal -
Ahead of the General Assembly session, Ukraine's first lady told a meeting of top global diplomats that for real justice to be served, an international tribunal should be convened to judge Russia.
"I think you will agree... regardless of our country or nationality, we have the right not to be killed in our own homes," Olena Zelenska said via video link.
"However, Ukrainians are being killed in front of the whole world for the whole year in their own cities, villages, apartments, hospitals, theaters."
"That's why we call on the United Nations to establish a special tribunal for the crimes of Russian aggression," she said.
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