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UNIS/SGSM/1205
23 February 2022

The Secretary-General

Remarks at Press Encounter

New York, 22 February 2022 

As you know, I have cut short an overseas visit – including a very important summit of African leaders – to rush back to UN headquarters.

Our world is facing the biggest global peace and security crisis in recent years – certainly in my tenure as Secretary-General.

We face a moment that I sincerely hoped would not come.

I am deeply troubled by the latest developments regarding Ukraine -- including reports of increased ceasefire violations across the contact line and the real risk of further escalation on the ground.

I am especially concerned for the safety and wellbeing of all those who have already suffered from so much death, destruction and displacement.

Let me be clear: the decision of the Russian Federation to recognize the so-called “independence” of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions is a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.

Such a unilateral measure conflicts directly with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations – and is inconsistent with the so-called Friendly Relations Declaration of the General Assembly which the International Court of Justice has repeatedly cited as representing international law.

It is also a death blow to the Minsk Agreements endorsed by the Security Council.

The principles of the UN Charter are not an a la carte menu.

They cannot be applied selectively.

Member States have accepted them all and they must apply them all.

I am also concerned about the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping.

I am proud of the achievements of UN Peacekeeping operations in which so many Blue Helmets have sacrificed their lives to protect civilians.

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.

The United Nations, in line with the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, stands fully behind the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders.

We are continuing to support the people of Ukraine through our humanitarian operations and human rights efforts.

At this critical moment, I call for an immediate ceasefire and the re-establishment of the rule of law.

We need restraint and reason.

We need de-escalation now.

I urge all to refrain from actions and statements that would take this dangerous situation over the brink.

It is high time to return to the path of dialogue and negotiations.

We must rally and meet this challenge together for peace, and to save the people of Ukraine and beyond from the scourge of war.

I am fully committed to all efforts to resolve this crisis without further bloodshed.

I repeat what I have said several times:  My good offices are available – and we will not relent in the search for a peaceful solution.

The United Nations and the entire international system are being tested and we must pass this test.

Thank you.

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. The Russian Parliament today authorized action outside the country by the military. It doesn’t seem like anything that anybody says or any diplomatic efforts are going to avoid any escalation and future invasions in Ukraine. You have appealed before. So have a lot of other people. What else can be done to really stop this new bloodshed in Europe?

SG: As I said, this is high time for de-escalation. This is high time to return to dialogue and negotiation. I think the present crisis will be in the end terribly detrimental both to Ukraine and to the Russian Federation.

Q:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. The Russian President stated that actions that Kyiv is conducting against Donetsk and Luhansk are literally genocide. Do you share this assessment? And a second question please – some former Ukrainian officials were mentioning the possibility of a UN peacekeeping mission deploying to the area. What do you make of that? Thank you.

SG: Genocide is a crime that is clearly defined and whose application must be done in line with international law. I do not think it is the case.

Yes, it is true. There was a moment in which Ukraine has asked for a UN peacekeeping force in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. At the time, the Russian Federation accepted the idea of a peacekeeping force, but limited to the protection of OSCE monitors, and there was no agreement in the Security Council trying to make the two positions coincide and for that reason it was never possible to approve in the Security Council a peacekeeping mission.

Thank you very much. All the best.

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