United Nations — The United Nations General Assembly gathered Wednesday for a session dedicated to discussion of the crisis unfolding on Ukraine‘s borders, with a record number of speakers slated to address what the United States says is already a Russian invasion. Among the senior officials expected to address the assembly were Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres — who cut short a planned international trip to speak at the General Assembly on Wednesday — told the assembly in his opening remarks that the world was “facing a moment of peril.”
On Tuesday, Guterres said the U.N. “and the entire international system are being tested, and we must pass this test.”
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield echoed his sentiment on Wednesday, calling it a “crossroads in the history of this body.”
The U.N. chief has called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where a simmering eight-year war between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces has escalated dramatically over the last week.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin unilaterally recognized the breakaway regions of Donbas, Luhansk and Donetsk, as independent of Ukraine on Tuesday, and ordered his forces to enter the areas for “peacekeeping” duties.
Guterres appeared annoyed by Putin’s use of the term, saying he was concerned about “the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping.”
“I am proud of the achievements of U.N. Peacekeeping operations in which so many Blue Helmets have sacrificed their lives to protect civilians,” he said. “When troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers.”
“They are not peacekeepers at all,” Guterres said.
Ukrainian diplomats at the U.N. have appeared frustrated by the global body’s inability thus far to prevent a violation of its sovereignty, and they have made it clear that, as Guterres suggested previously, the standoff with Russia should be seen as a test.
“If the United Nations fails to deliver on its mandate and its flagship mission, it should be overhauled,” Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told CBS News this week.
“As much as we all want Russia to de-escalate and choose the path of peace, that is not our decision to make,” the U.S.’ Thomas-Greenfield said on Wednesday. “This is President Putin’s war of choice. If he chooses to escalate further, Russia and Russia alone will bear full responsibility for what is to come.”
Noting the sanctions Russia has already been subjected to this week, the American ambassador called on the other U.N. member nations to “make clear that Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression.”
“Now is the time to get off the sidelines,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “Let us show Russia that it is isolated and alone in its aggressive actions. Let us stand fully behind the principles of sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity for Ukraine, and for all Member States.”