Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations confronted Russia's U.N. ambassador in a tense exchange late Wednesday just as Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
During an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council late Wednesday, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya directly confronted Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, a rare moment at the U.N. that underscored its seriousness.
Less than an hour after Russia began its invasion, Kyslytsya called on the U.N. Security Council to remove Russia as president of the council (the council rotates the "president" role each month, and the Russian Federation just so happened to be president of the council in February) — and that is when things got tense.
"It’s too late, my dear colleagues, to speak about de-escalation, too late," Kyslytsya said.
"The Russian president declared war. Should I play video of your president?" Kyslytsya then asked Nebenzia directly, holding up his phone. "Ambassador, should I do that right now, or can you confirm it?"
"Do not interrupt me, please — thank you," he continued.
"Then don't ask me questions when you are speaking," Nebenzia fired back. "Proceed with your statement."
"Anyway, you declared war. It is the responsibility of this body to stop the war," Kyslytsya responded. "So, I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war."
Ukraine - Security Council, 8974th meeting | United Nations | UNTV Live (23 Feb 2022) - Official youtu.be
At the end of the meeting, after other countries had condemned Russia for the invasion, Kyslytsya blasted Russia with a powerful line of condemnation.
"As I said, relinquish your duties as chair. Call Putin, call [Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey] Lavrov to stop aggression," Kyslytsya said. "And I welcome the decision of some members of this council to meet as soon as possible to consider the necessary decision that would condemn the aggression that you launch on my people."
"There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, ambassador," Kyslytsya continued.
Shockingly, just before adjourning the meeting, Nebenzia said that Russia is not being aggressive toward Ukraine because there is a "junta in power in Kyiv." The comment amounts to an outright rejection of Ukraine's sovereignty.
In the wake of Russia's invasion, calls are growing to remove Russia from the U.N. Security Council, or perhaps from the U.N. altogether. However, Russia holds a permanent spot on the Security Council, making its potential removal difficult.