Monday, Jul 04, 2022
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Countries Speak Out At The UN: Ukraine, You're Not Alone

Diplomats from dozens of countries took the floor at the United Nations to deplore Russia's actions toward Ukraine and make eleventh hour pleas for diplomacy as fears of a new war in Europe grew.

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Ukraine-Russia: Protest in front of Russian embassy AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Diplomats from dozens of countries took the floor at the United Nations on Wednesday to deplore Russia's actions toward Ukraine and make eleventh hour pleas for diplomacy as fears of a new war in Europe grew.

Russia and ally Syria defended Moscow's decision to recognise two separatist regions of Ukraine as independent and to order Russian troops there for “peacekeeping.”

But even China, which usually takes Moscow's side at the UN, spoke up for the world body's longstanding principle of respecting countries' sovereignty and internationally recognised borders.

Meeting a day after Western powers and some other countries imposed new sanctions on Russia, the 193-member General Assembly didn't take any collective action. But the comments from nearly 70 nations, with more scheduled for Monday, represented the broadest forum of global sentiment since the crisis dramatically escalated this week.

Countries from Guatemala to Turkey to Japan condemned Russia's embrace of the separatist regions' independence claims or voiced support for Ukraine.

“Ukraine, you're not alone,” Bulgarian Ambassador Lachezara Stoeva said.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield exhorted countries “to get off the sidelines.”

“There is no middle ground here. Calling for both sides to de-escalate only gives Russia a pass. Russia is the aggressor here,” she said.

Thomas-Greenfield warned that the confrontation could spiral into a refugee crisis, estimating that as 5 million people could be displaced and could make food prices spike in developing countries where Ukraine supplies wheat.

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun didn't mention Russia by name, but he stressed Beijing's position “on safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states” and upholding the UN charter.

Echoing a narrative being broadcast to Russians at home, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia portrayed his country as responding to the plight of beleaguered people in the breakaway areas. Russia claims Ukraine is engaging in violence and oppression, which Ukraine denies.

“We urge you today to focus on reining in Kyiv,” Nebenzia said.

Syria stuck up for Russia and accused the West of using the assembly to pressure Moscow.

“The Ukrainian crisis was created by the Western states, led by the United States, to divide people and to undermine Russian security,” Ambassador Bassam al-Sabbagh said, condemning “the attempts to offend” Russia.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba implored countries to use tough economic sanctions, strong messages and “active diplomacy” to get Russia to back off. A lackluster response would jeopardize not only Ukraine but the concept of international law and global security, he warned.

"We need to use this last chance for action and stop Russia where it is,” Kuleba said.

Russia seized Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and pro-Russia rebels have since been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. More than 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

After weeks of rising tension as Moscow massed over 150,000 troops on Ukraine's borders, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the two regions' independence and ordered Russian forces there as what he called “peacekeepers."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres disputed that, saying they are troops entering another country without its consent.

“Our world is facing a moment of peril,” Guterres told the assembly. He said Russia's actions violate Ukraine's sovereignty and are “inconsistent with” the UN charter.

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