Diplomats move to isolate Russia at UN showdown vote

Moscow can veto any Security Council resolution on Ukraine but risks becoming an international pariah

Ukrainians protest in front of the Russian embassy in Rome, Italy. EPA
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UN Security Council diplomats on Thursday moved to further isolate Russia by drafting a resolution condemning Moscow’s air, land and sea assault on neighbouring Ukraine.

France, Britain, the US and other council members were preparing a document condemning Russia’s cross-border military assault, even though Moscow — a permanent member of the body — was all but guaranteed to use its veto against any such move.

Still, a scuppered resolution could underscore Russia's global isolation over what the US, UN, EU and others have declared a breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and international law.

“We're going to work with our partners in the UN to bring a resolution which condemns the Russian action and we're discussing the resolution today,” Britain’s deputy UN ambassador James Kariuki said on Thursday.

Britain is “resolute” in its support for Ukraine and London's imposition of “further robust sanctions” on Thursday would have a “punishing effect on the Russian economy”, Mr Kariuki told reporters in New York.

A vote on the draft resolution could take place as soon as Thursday, diplomats said. Russia holds the council’s rotating presidency for the month of February and schedules meetings and votes, though this responsibility next month switches to the UAE, a temporary council member.

France’s UN ambassador Nicolas de Rivière said late on Wednesday that a draft would arrive “in the coming hours” condemning Russia’s war. He urged members of the 15-nation body to “support us in these tragic circumstances”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who has spoken uncharacteristically forcefully against Russian aggression, was on Thursday scaling back the world body’s mission to Ukraine amid the fierce barrage of missiles.

“All UN staff in Ukraine are safe and accounted for,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

“We are relocating some personnel and have instructed staff to take necessary precautions. A core group of mission-critical staff remains working in the areas around the line of contact.”

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet meanwhile said a group of about 60 UN monitors would stay in Ukraine to keep track of any abuses committed there, amid fears of potential widespread civilian suffering.

Ms Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the agency's mission to Ukraine and its pro-Moscow breakaway eastern regions was keeping tabs on the escalating violence, as reports pour in of fighting in Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Odesa, Mariupol and Kiev.

“It is particularly crucial at this time that we continue to closely monitor and attempt to verify reports of human rights violations, including civilian casualties, damage to civilian objects, including critical infrastructure,” Ms Bachelet said.

Russia’s invasion “clearly violates international law” and was causing widespread panic and human suffering, she added.

She urged Moscow to return to peaceful negotiations and to avoid “at all costs” the use of explosive weapons in Ukrainian towns and villages.

Updated: February 24, 2022, 5:26 PM