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UN Weekly Roundup: Feb. 19-25, 2022

At the U.N. on Feb. 25, 2022, Russia's Vassily Nebenzia keeps his hand down during a vote on a draft resolution that would condemn Russia for invading Ukraine.
At the U.N. on Feb. 25, 2022, Russia's Vassily Nebenzia keeps his hand down during a vote on a draft resolution that would condemn Russia for invading Ukraine.

Editor's note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

UN chief appeals to Putin to cease war on Ukraine

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made multiple appeals to Russian President Vladimir Putin this week to stop his military invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday, Guterres said, "I repeat my appeal from last night to President Putin: Stop the military operation; bring the troops back to Russia." The U.N. chief has been especially outspoken in recent days, raising Moscow's ire.

Ukraine's foreign minister appeals to UN General Assembly

On Wednesday, Ukraine's foreign minister appealed to the international community to "take swift, concrete and resolute actions" to help preserve his country from Russian military aggression, warning that "Russia will not stop at Ukraine."

UN Security Council convenes 2 late-night emergency sessions

The U.N. Security Council held two rare late-night emergency sessions this week. One on Monday night, as fears of a Russian invasion grew, and again on Wednesday night. At the second meeting, diplomats' hopes to avert bloodshed were dashed when word came that Putin had ordered the invasion.

Kyiv Envoy Tells UN: Ukraine's Borders Unchangeable

In brief

Several Western nations put a draft resolution to a vote at the U.N. Security Council late Friday that condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a violation of international law and called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all its forces. As expected, Russia vetoed the measure. Eleven of the 15 council members supported it. China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstained. Diplomats say they will move to the General Assembly in the coming days to put the measure before all 193 member states. While there is no veto in the UNGA, its resolutions do not carry the weight of international law. However, if it is adopted by an overwhelming majority of the international community, it will send a strong symbolic message and could further isolate Russia.

The U.N. announced Thursday that it is releasing $20 million from its central emergency relief fund for humanitarian needs in and around Ukraine. Before this week's Russian invasion, the U.N. was assisting 1.8 million vulnerable people on both sides of the line of contact in the country's east. That number is likely to rise nationwide. Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths told reporters Friday that the U.N. is scaling up its response in Ukraine and will launch an appeal in Geneva next week for "north of $1 billion" for a three-month period for Ukraine.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed grave concern Friday about growing civilian casualties in Ukraine. She said the Russian military offensive is a clear violation of international law and must be immediately halted. She also said she is "disturbed" by the arrests of more than 1,800 anti-war protesters in Russia and called for their immediate release.

Quote of note

"There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, ambassador."

— Ukrainian U.N. envoy, Sergiy Kyslytsya, to his Russian counterpart, Vassily Nebenzia, during an emergency Security Council meeting Wednesday night.

What we are watching next week:

Ukraine has asked the U.N. General Assembly to hold an emergency session. The sponsors of the Security Council resolution that Russia vetoed will also likely move to have the measure put to a vote among the entire U.N. membership. Stay tuned …

In memoriam

This week's edition of the U.N. roundup has been devoted to the crisis in Ukraine, but we cannot ignore the passing of an individual who dedicated his life's work to helping humanity. Dr. Paul Farmer, 62, died in his sleep Monday from heart complications in Rwanda, where he was teaching at a university he co-founded. For more than 30 years, Farmer worked tirelessly through his nonprofit Partners in Health to improve access to health care for the rural poor in Rwanda, Haiti and countries throughout Latin America and Africa. He was a friend of the United Nations, and the deputy secretary-general expressed her condolences to his wife, children and global family.

More on his life's work, click here.