Russia has called an emergency meeting of the United Nations’ most powerful body, seeking an immediate halt to the deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine – after months of blocking any Security Council action.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow now wanted Security Council action to end weeks of violence in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents, a move immediately denounced by the United States as “hypocritical”.
The draft resolution “urges the parties to commit themselves to a sustainable ceasefire,” and demands “that the parties establish humanitarian corridors” so aid can be delivered and civilians who wish to leave can do so safely.
But US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Russia was being “hypocritical” by calling for a ceasefire and help for civilians to leave combat zones safely while “doing nothing” to stop Ukrainian separatists from attacking targets in the east and holding international monitoring teams hostage.
“So if they’re going to call for …reduction in tension and a de-escalation, it would be more effective for them to end those activities,” Ms Psaki said in Washington.
Ukraine’s UN ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev dubbed Russia’s tabling of a resolution on Ukraine “cynical and immoral” following its occupation and annexation of Crimea.
He called the resolution “needless”, saying Russia should implement the April 17 Geneva agreement aimed at bringing peace to the east, and stop the flood of mercenaries and weapons.
Russia holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month and the council met behind closed doors to discuss the proposed resolution, which is drafted so it cannot be militarily enforced.
Moscow has been virtually isolated in more than a dozen previous Security Council meeting on the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing crisis. But because of Russia’s veto power as a permanent member, the council has been unable to act.
By contrast, the 193-member General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, affirmed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in a surprisingly strong but nonbinding vote.
Russia has repeatedly demanded an end to violence in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time it has called for a Security Council resolution.
While council members said they need to consult their capitals, initial reactions to the draft indicate Russia faces an uphill struggle to win approval.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters that Red Cross representatives in the south east expressed “extreme concern” about the humanitarian situation as a result of large-scale military operations by Ukrainian troops “and so-called national guard”. He pointed to heavy and indiscriminate shelling of residential areas which he said was killing civilians every day.
But British counterpart Sir Mark Lyall Grant said “there was a lot of scepticism about the scale of the humanitarian situation”, given that there were no restrictions on movements, no food shortages, no besieging of cities, and only 10,000 internally-displaced Ukrainians.
No council member has recognised Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Western nations are certain to demand that any resolution reaffirm Ukraine’s territorial integrity, a point emphasised by France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud.
The proposed resolution comes at a time when Russia is opposing the creation of humanitarian corridors in Syria, angering many council members.
“After four vetoes (of Syria resolutions) and after resistance to any sensible action on humanitarian issues in Syria, to propose something on Ukraine is a little bit ironic to say the least,” said Lithuania’s UN ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite.