UN General Assembly sees potential 'ray of hope' as Ukraine, Russia hold talks

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2022 04:48 PM | Updated as of Mar 01 2022 07:18 PM

(UPDATE) United Nations General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid expressed hope Monday that the negotiations between officials of Ukraine and Russia can put an end to the two countries' ongoing conflict, a press statement from the UN said.

"As we convene here in the General Assembly, negotiators from both sides are holding talks in Belarus," Shahid said at a rare emergency special session of UN Member States in New York to discuss the crisis that erupted following attacks launched by Russia since Thursday, according to the statement.

"This offers a ray of hope. We pray that these talks will calm down tempers and pave way to peace," he added, referring to the first direct talks between Ukraine and Russia.

Hours of negotiations between the two sides on Monday failed though to reach a breakthrough to halt the fighting, according to Reuters report.

The meeting ended with officials heading back to capitals for further consultations before a second round of negotiations, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told reporters.

Russian delegation head Vladimir Medinsky told reporters: "The most important thing is that we agreed to continue negotiating."

According to the UN, the bombardment of Ukrainian cities such as the capital Kyiv forced people to seek shelter elsewhere, including in subway stations.

Around 500,000 Ukrainians have also crossed the country's borders for safety. Other nationals, including Filipinos, have fled as well.

Ukraine's Ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya told the Assembly that around 352 of his fellow nationals, including 16 children, have been killed, while more than 2,000 have been injured due to the attacks.

Shahid said Russia's military offensive against Ukraine is a violation of the sovereignty of Ukraine, and is inconsistent with the UN Charter.

"The ongoing military offensive is inconsistent with this. It is an affront to the founders of this Organization and everything it stands for," he said.

"The violence must stop. Humanitarian law and international humanitarian law must be respected. And diplomacy and dialogue must prevail."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed calls for an end to the fighting, warning it may also trigger a regional crisis.

"Enough is enough. Soldiers need to move back to their barracks. Leaders need to move to peace. Civilians must be protected. International humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld," he said.

"Yesterday, Russian nuclear forces were put on high alert. This is a chilling development. The mere idea of a nuclear conflict is simply inconceivable. Nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons."

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday ordered his defense chief to put nuclear "deterrence forces" on alert, four days after it started its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's envoy to the UN defended his country's actions, saying the goal of what he calls the special military operation is to protect the people in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.

According to Amb. Vasily Nebenzya, these people "for eight years were subject to torment and genocide by the Kyiv regime", thus, the "need to demilitarize and de-nazify Ukraine", the UN statement said.

He said the actions of the Russian government are supposedly being "distorted and thwarted", with media and social networks allegedly proliferating "these lies".

The Philippines, according to a copy of its intervention at the session, "condemn(s) the use of separatism and secession as a weapon of diplomacy for inviting and inflicting terrible cruelties and indiscriminate killings far in excess of that of any other kind of conflict."

It explicitly condemned the invasion of Ukraine and "strongly urge(s) the cessation of hostilities".

"The Charter of the UN requires sovereign states to refrain from the use of force against the political independence and territorial integrity of any state," the Philippines said.

Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador, said his country believes the UN can help address the crisis by bringing "stakeholder positions closer together and eradicate the causes of conflict."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier urged the West to consider a no-fly zone for Russian aircraft over his country on Monday after Moscow bombarded the country's second largest city, drawing new sanctions by the United States and its allies.

Some 100 countries were expected to address the General Assembly, and vote on a draft resolution on Ukraine.

The UN statement said that although Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they are considered to carry political weight as they express the will of the wider membership of the international grouping.

Russia faces increasing international isolation over its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials said Russian attacks in Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million people, had killed civilians, including children. In a video address, Zelenskiy said it was time to block Russian missiles, planes and helicopters from Ukraine's airspace.

Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador, said at the Assembly, "If Ukraine does not survive, international peace will not survive."

"If Ukraine does not survive, the United States will not survive, have no illusions. If Ukraine does not survive, we cannot be surprised if democracy fails next."

- with a report from Reuters

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