Russia calls UN meeting to seek cease-fire in Ukraine
A pro-Russian rebel prepares to fire a rocket propelled grenade during clashes as they attack a border guard base held by Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, June 2, 2014. (AP / Vadim Ghirda)
After months of blocking any Security Council action on Ukraine, Russia called an emergency meeting of the UN's most powerful body Monday to introduce a resolution calling for an immediate halt to deadly clashes in eastern Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow will seek Security Council action to end weeks of violence in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents, a move immediately denounced by the United States as "hypocritical."
Speaking in Moscow, Lavrov said the resolution would seek to establish a "stable and reliable cease fire," and also call for the creation of "humanitarian corridors that will help civilians leave hostility zones, should they wish to do so."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki countered that Russia was being "hypocritical" by calling for a ceasefire and seeking help for civilians to safely leave combat zones in eastern Ukraine while "doing nothing to stop" Ukrainian separatists from attacking targets in the east and holding international monitoring teams hostage.
"So if they're going to call for ...reduction in tension and a de-escalation, it would be more effective for them to end those activities," Psaki told reporters in Washington.
Russia holds the rotating Security Council presidency in June, and the council met behind closed doors Monday afternoon to discuss the proposed resolution.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the resolution would not be drafted in such a way that it could be enforced militarily.
Moscow has been virtually isolated in more than a dozen previous Security Council meeting on Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and the ongoing crisis. But because of Russia's veto power as a permanent member, the council has been unable to act. By contrast, the 193-member General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, affirmed Ukraine's territorial integrity in a surprisingly strong but nonbinding vote.
Russia has called almost daily for an end to violence in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time Moscow has called for a Security Council resolution.
It was unclear how much support the proposal would have.
No council member has recognized Russia's annexation of Crimea, and Western nations are virtually certain to demand that any resolution reaffirm Ukraine's territorial integrity.
The proposed resolution comes at a time when Russia is opposing the creation of humanitarian corridors in Syria, angering many council members.
Lithuania's UN Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite wondered aloud as she headed into the council meeting whether Russia was thinking about its support of humanitarian corridors in Ukraine -- but not in Syria.
"After four vetoes (of Syria resolutions) and after resistance to any sensible action on humanitarian issues in Syria, to propose something on Ukraine is a little bit ironic to say the least," she said.