UN warns of dire global impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine

Peter Hutchison - Agence France-Presse
UN warns of dire global impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine
Nicolas de Riviere, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations speaks at the General Assembly 58th plenary meeting in New York on February 23, 2022, on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
AFP / Timothy A. Clary

UNITED NATIONS, United States — 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.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 18, 2023 - 10:13am

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday secured Turkey's crucial backing for Ukraine's NATO aspirations after winning a US pledge for cluster munitions that could inflict massive damage on Russian forces on the battlefield.

Washington's decision to deliver the controversial weapons — banned across a large part of the world but not in Russia or Ukraine — dramatically ups the stakes in the war, which entered its 500th day Saturday.

Zelensky has been travelling across Europe trying to secure bigger and better weapons for his outmatched army, which has launched a long-awaited counteroffensive that is progressing less swiftly than Ukraine's allies had hoped. — AFP

October 18, 2023 - 10:13am

Washington's decision to supply Ukraine with ATACMS long-range missiles is "a grave mistake", Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov says Wednesday.

"The White House's decision to send long-range missiles to Ukrainians is a grave mistake. The consequences of this step, which was deliberately hidden from the public, will be of the most serious nature," he says in a statement. — AFP

October 15, 2023 - 3:26pm

President Vladimir Putin says Sunday that Russian forces had made gains in their Ukraine offensive including in Avdiivka, a symbolic industrial hub.

"Our troops are improving their position in almost all of this area, which is quite vast," he says in an interview on Russian television, an extract of which was posted on social media on Sunday. "This concerns the areas of Kupiansk, Zaporizhia and Avdiivka." — AFP

October 12, 2023 - 12:48pm

The regional governor says debris from a drone destroyed over the Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, fell on homes and killed three people, including a young child.

The air defense system "shot down an aircraft-type UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) approaching the city", says Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, adding that the falling debris destroyed several homes.

"Most importantly, three people were killed, one of them a small child," he writes on the Telegram messaging app, accompanied by pictures of a house reduced to a pile of rubble behind red and white police tape. — AFP

October 10, 2023 - 2:18pm

Ukraine's air force says on Tuesday that it had destroyed 27 of 36 Russian attack drones overnight in the south of the country.

Ukrainian forces downed 27 "Shahed-136/131" drones in the southern Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odesa regions, the air force said on the messaging platform Telegram.

In all, Moscow had launched 36 of the Iranian-made drones from the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, it says. — AFP

October 6, 2023 - 7:28pm

The Kremlin claims on Friday Russian forces never targeted civilian infrastructure after Ukraine blamed Moscow for a missile attack that killed over 50 people in the eastern village of Groza.

"We repeat that the Russian military does not strike civilian targets. Strikes are carried out on military targets, on places where military personnel are concentrated," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says in his daily briefing. — AFP

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