UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday said that Russia putting nuclear forces on high alert is a “chilling development” amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Nothing can justify the use of nuclear weapons,” he said at the emergency session of the General Assembly on Ukraine.
“Yesterday, Russian nuclear forces were put on high alert. This is a chilling development. The mere idea of a nuclear conflict is simply inconceivable.”
The Assembly met in its 11th emergency session following a Security Council resolution on Sunday to refer the Ukraine crisis to it after the Council was deadlocked on the issue because of the Russian veto.
India had abstained on the resolution, along with the other two Asian countries on the Council, China and the United Arab Emirates.
General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid said: “The convening of this 11th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly, rooted in the Charter and mandated in resolution 377 A (V) entitled ‘Uniting for peace, is a new opportunity to ensure that the leadership of the United Nations is up to the expectation of the people we serve on matters related to peace and security.”
The “United for Peace” resolution was adopted by the Assembly in 1950 in response to the Soviet Union’s vetoes of resolutions on the Korean crisis and it forms the basis for the Assembly to act when the Council is deadlocked, although its resolutions are not binding.
Calling for an immediate ceasefire and a return to diplomacy, Shahid said: “The military offensive by the Russian Federation is a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and is inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.”
Shahid also said the session should not become a forum for war rhetoric.
“The strength of this Assembly is rooted in its moral authority. Let’s demonstrate that moral courage and use today’s debate not to whip up war rhetoric, but to give peace a chance. Let’s ignite the fire of love, humanity, and compassion,” he said.
The Council resolution that Russia vetoed – on which India had also abstained – sought to condemn Russia’s invasion and demand an immediate ceasefire.
“Enough is enough,” Guterres declared, “the fighting in Ukraine must stop”.
He said that the UN has “credible accounts of residential buildings, critical civilian infrastructure and other non-military targets sustaining heavy damage. This escalating violence — which is resulting in civilian deaths, including children – is totally unacceptable”.
Ukraine’s Permanent Representative Sergiy Kyslytsya made a direct appeal to Russian soldiers and their families while making a plea to the international community for saving his country.
He also questioned the legitimacy of Russia as a successor state to the Soviet Union to be able to exercise the veto power.
Russia’s Permanent Representative Vasily Nebenza asserted that the resolution in the Council was one-sided and did not take into account the Ukrainian action against its minorities.
A resolution similar to the one vetoed by Russia in Council is expected to be taken up by the Assembly.
Later on Monday, the Council is scheduled to meet at the request of France’s President Emmanuel Macron to consider a resolution calling for unfettered access for humanitarian and relief activities in Ukraine.