NEW YORK, Feb 24 — A United Nations meeting on Ukraine Wednesday heard that a full-scale Russian invasion of the country would have a devastating global impact that would likely spark a new “refugee crisis.”
The United States said a war could displace up to five million people while Ukraine’s foreign minister said such a conflict would mark “the end of the world order as we know it.”
The dire warnings were made during an annual General Assembly session on “temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories” that has been held at UN headquarters in New York every year since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the body that “our world is facing a moment of peril” over the crisis.
“If the conflict in Ukraine expands, the world could see a scale and severity of need unseen for many years,” he said.
“It is time for restraint, reason and de-escalation,” Guterres added, stressing there was no room for actions or statements that would “take this dangerous situation over the abyss.”
The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said an invasion could displace as many as another five million people on top of the three million she said had already been impacted by Russian military action in eastern Ukraine.
“If Russia continues down this path, it could — according to our estimates — create a new refugee crisis, one of the largest facing the world today,” she said.
Thomas-Greenfield added that since Ukraine is one of the world’s largest wheat suppliers to the developing world, Russian military operations “could cause a spike in food prices and lead to even more desperate hunger in places like Libya, Yemen, and Lebanon.”
“The tidal waves of suffering this war will cause are unthinkable,” she said.
Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded with the United Nations to hold Moscow accountable for what he called its attack on “the core principles of international law.”
“If Russia does not get a severe, swift and decisive response now, this will mean a total bankruptcy of the international security system and international institutions, which are tasked with maintaining the global security order.
“This is a grim scenario, which will throw us back to the darkest times of the 20th century,” he said.
‘We Ukrainians want peace’
Kuleba called Russian claims that it is acting to prevent planned military operations by Kyiv in the Donbas area as “absurd” and called on Russia to withdraw troops from Ukrainian soil.
“We Ukrainians want peace and we want to resolve all issues through diplomacy,” he said.
Albania and the United States are working on a formal UN Security Council resolution to condemn Russia over its actions regarding Ukraine, diplomats told AFP Wednesday.
The resolution will first go to the 15-member Council, where it is certain to fail due to Russia’s veto power.
It could then be submitted to the full UN General Assembly, where no country holds a veto, but Assembly resolutions are non-binding.
A similar scenario played out after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea; Moscow vetoed the Security Council resolution, but a measure was adopted by the Assembly.
At Wednesday’s General Assembly meeting, all 193 members of the UN attended, with the vast majority speaking out against Moscow.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said today’s tensions were the result of the 2014 “coup” that ousted pro-Russian, ex-Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yanukovych.
He said that since then, Ukraine’s government has been carrying out a “genocide” in Donbas. — AFP