UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Friday was holding its 13th emergency meeting on the growing crisis in Ukraine at the request of Russia, whose ambassador Vitaly Churkin demanded a “swift halt of all violence.”
But Western powers on the council accused Russia of equipping and funding the pro-Russia forces that have seized government buildings in 10 eastern cities. Ukraine on Friday launched its first major offensive against the insurgency.
“Russia … has released bands of thugs on Ukraine … and is suddenly discovering this mixture might escape its control,” French ambassador Gerard Araud said.
Russia called this latest council meeting, the second in a week. Churkin called on Kiev and its Western “enablers … to not commit a fatal error” and stop the offensive, which he described as “criminal misadventures.”
But British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant retorted that “Russia’s synthetic indignation convinces no one,” and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia was “trying to insult the intelligence of the world community” by calling another urgent council meeting.
The prospect for any council action on the crisis in Ukraine is highly unlikely. Russia holds veto power as a permanent council member.
Frustration soared, and Araud despaired at the council’s “impotence.”
“Peaceful protesters do not use grenade launchers,” Lithuania’s ambassador, Raimonda Murmokaite, said tartly. “They do not kidnap and shamelessly parade international observers.”
Earlier Friday, pro-Russia forces shot down two Ukrainian helicopters. And seven European observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe remain held by pro-Russia gunmen.
Ukraine has reported “many” rebels dead and wounded in its first major offensive against the insurgency. The Kremlin said Kiev’s military move has “destroyed” the two-week-old Geneva agreement on calming the crisis.
In Washington, President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened tougher new sanctions against Russia if Moscow doesn’t quickly change its disruptive behavior.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement through his spokesman expressing “grave concern” and urging both a diplomatic solution and a release of the OSCE monitors.
U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman will visit Kiev and Moscow next week to urge “restraint and an immediate return to dialogue.”