This week, alas, a heavy spotlight on Ukraine.
You are reading This Week @UN, summarizing the most pressing issues before the organization. The information is gathered from UN press briefings, PassBlue reporting and other sources. This week, read how the UN leadership and member states are reacting to the ground and aerial assault by Russia against Ukraine and how UN grants for Congolese refugees extend a life line to poor Zimbabweans.
• A UN Security Council draft resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was voted on Feb. 25 at about 6 P.M. EST in the chamber, with these results: 11 yes (Albania, Brazil, Britain, France, Gabon, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, United States); 1 veto (Russia); 3 abstentions (China, India, United Arab Emirates). An earlier version of the draft featured, for example, more use of the words “condemns” and “condemning” that were subbed by “deplore,” among others. And it referred to the “President of the Russian Federation” — which got cut to “the Russian Federation.” China’s abstention was assumed, as it took that route on a 2014 Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s takeover of Crimea. (Russia is a permanent member of the Council and president of the body this month.) Reactions to the veto:
Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the US: “It’s hard to imagine what it must feel like to see tanks rolling into your city to see bombs dropped on your streets, to see soldiers storm your parks and your gardens. But in the face of all of this everyday, Ukrainian people are taking extraordinary actions to protect their children to protect their country to defend everything they hold dear.”
Ronaldo Costa Filho of Brazil: “The Council’s paralysis when world peace was at stake could lead to its irrelevance, when we need it most. It is our collective responsibility not to allow this to happen.”
Vassily Nebenzia of Russia:”Of course, it is difficult for us to compete with the United States in terms of the number of invasions targeting their neighbors. I will refrain from listing out the aggressions carried out by the United States in their history, but you are in no position to moralize.”
Sergiy Kyslytsya of Ukraine: “We remain open for negotiations. But don’t put words in our mouths. Don’t manipulate with our statements about negotiations. We are sick of your interpretations, speak on your own behalf, do not speak on our behalf.”
Martin Kimani of Kenya: “We cannot help but recall that Africa’s Sahel region is in turmoil due to the hasty and ill-considered intervention in Libya a decade ago.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s remarks. — DULCIE LEIMBACH and DAWN CLANCY
Monday, Feb. 21
• Congolese Refugees’ UN Grants Offer Grocery Lifelines for Poor Zimbabweans: Nyasha Bhobo reports from Harare on how Congolese refugees’ kiosk grocery stores in poor townships in Zimbabwe help keep prices low and engender all-around appreciation.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres is “greatly concerned with the latest reports of increased ceasefire violations, including the use of heavy weapons across the contact line in Eastern Ukraine,” particularly regarding “reports of civilian casualties, targeting of critical civilian infrastructure and evacuations.” The UN has 149 international and 1,361 national staff in Ukraine; of those, 100 personnel work in Donetsk and Luhansk, the self-declared entities in the Donbas region.
Tuesday, Feb. 22
• Putin Wants to Reunite Ukraine With Russia as He Faces Mortality: A huge motive for the 69-year-old Russian president in his invasion into Ukraine? His creeping mortality and desperate need to reunite the two nations to “establish himself as Russia’s greatest leader since Stalin and Peter the Great,” Stephen Schlesinger, the American historian, writes in his analysis.
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Under Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo said at the Feb. 21 Security Council meeting, held in reaction to Russia’s formal recognition of Luhansk and Donetsk, that “the risk of major conflict is real and needs to be prevented at all costs.” She reiterated Guterres’s statement that Russia’s decision to “recognize the independence” of certain regions violates Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and is “inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the Organization.” [The Washington Post’s fact-checking of Putin’s Feb. 22 speech. Post article on US letter to UN alleging Russia’s plans to commit human-rights abuses in Ukraine.]
Guterres cut short a visit while overseas to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to return to the UN on Monday afternoon to speak to reporters about Ukraine. His remarks.
• Parfait Onanga-Anyanga of Gabon is the new UN special representative to the African Union and head of the UN Office to the African Union. He succeeds Hanna Serwaa Tetteh of Ghana, who has been named UN special envoy for the Horn of Africa. (She succeeds Onanga-Anyanga.)
Wednesday, Feb. 23
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Guterres told the General Assembly that the decision by Putin to recognize the so-called “independence of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk” and “the follow-up are violations of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter.” At the same Assembly meeting, the Russian envoy to the UN said that Guterres’s statement does not meet “his status and authorities as defined by the UN Charter.” (The Russian’s speech has been deleted from the mission’s website.) A reporter asked Guterres’s spokesperson: “Does the SG think that he acted in his authority?” Reply: “He would not have said what he said if he did not think he was acting within his role of Secretary-General.”
Valentine Rugwabiza of Rwanda is the new UN special representative for the Central African Republic and head of Minusca. Rugwabiza succeeds Mankeur Ndiaye of Senegal.
Thursday, Feb. 24
• In the Middle of an Emergency UN Session on Ukraine, Russia Declares War: Dawn Clancy’s report of an anxious late-night meeting called by Ukraine describes how in the middle of the session, as ambassadors read their prepared speeches one by one on the crisis, Putin declared war. The news, first hitting social media close to 10 P.M. EST, jolted the chamber as diplomats acknowledged the brutal turn of events. (Russia’s speech.)
• No UN noon briefing was held because of the Russian attack on Ukraine.
Friday, Feb. 25
• Spokesperson’s briefing: Stéphane Dujarric answered questions from reporters on Ukraine, providing this information: Guterres has not spoken with Russian President Putin at all during the crisis and it is unclear whether Guterres will meet with Russian or Ukrainian officials in Geneva, where he is headed for the opening of the 49th session of the Human Rights Council on Feb. 28. And this: “How does the SG intend to work together with one of its most powerful members . . . when its leader seems to be the opposite of everything the UN stands for?” Reply: “I think the Secretary‑General has expressed his opinion and his feelings pretty strongly in the last two days about how he feels about the situation.”
Amin Awad of Sudan has been named assistant secretary-general for UN crisis coordinator for Ukraine. Awad has served in a range of senior roles with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
• The sudden death of Paul Farmer, an American medical doctor who advocated tirelessly for the poorest of the poor for decades, most famously in Haiti.
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Anna Bianca Roach is a Simon and June Li Center for Global Journalism Fellow who focuses on climate reporting. She has worked in Canada, Armenia and the United States and is a native speaker of English, French and Italian. She has an M.S. in investigating reporting from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a B.A. in conflict studies from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. She has written for OpenDemocracy, The Washington Post and Deutsche Welle.