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U.N. chief decries Russian 'violation'

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described Russia's moves in Ukraine as a flagrant defiance of international law and the norms of peacekeeping.

The U.N. Security Council session on Ukraine
The U.N. Security Council session on Ukraine (AN/U.N. Web TV)

UNITED NATIONS (AN) — U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday described Russia's moves to recognize and occupy two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine as a flagrant defiance of international law and the norms of peacekeeping.

His stern remarks about Russia, one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, drew attention to the peril facing Ukraine. Russian lawmakers authorized President Vladimir Putin to use military force outside Russia. In response, U.S. President Joe Biden and European leaders imposed sanctions against Russian financial institutions and oligarchs.

The sanctions came in response to Russia's recognition of and deployment of troops into two Moscow-backed regions, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Putin has some 150,000 troops massed on three sides of Ukraine despite the threat of U.S. and European economic sanctions. Meantime, more U.S. troops are being sent to NATO areas by Russia.

"Our world is facing the biggest global peace and security crisis in recent years — certainly in my tenure as secretary-general. We face a moment that I sincerely hoped would not come," Guterres said while calling for an immediate cease-fire, de-escalation and return to the rule of law.

'Peacekeeping' in name only

Guterres said he was deeply troubled by what was going on in Ukraine, including reports of increased cease-fire violations and the risk of further escalation on the ground.

"Let me be clear: the decision of the Russian Federation to recognize the so-called 'independence' of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions is a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine," he said.

Such developments amount to a "death blow" to the 2014 Minsk agreements, said Guterres. The agreements, which the Security Council endorsed, were billed as a way to end fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Guterres also criticized Putin's order for Russian forces to enter Ukraine for "peacekeeping" purposes.

"The principles of the U.N. Charter are not an a la carte menu. They cannot be applied selectively," he said. "I am also concerned about the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping. ... When troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers."