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As U.N. Security Council Met to Stop Military Action by Putin, Russia Attacked Ukraine

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The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting late Wednesday in the hopes of stopping President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from invading Ukraine. Instead, his country did just that while they were delivering their speeches.

“Unfortunately, while we’ve been meeting in the Security Council tonight, it appears that President Putin has ordered that last step,” said the U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “This is a grave emergency.”

The United States said the Council would meet on Thursday to vote on a resolution condemning Russia’s actions. A European diplomat said earlier in the day that the resolution had been circulated among Council members and had wide support.

It was unclear whether the text would be adjusted to reflect Mr. Putin’s announcement. But in any case, the resolution is likely to be vetoed by Russia.

The Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, who is serving as the Council’s rotating president this month, repeated Moscow’s talking points by blaming Ukraine for the crisis. He accused the West of not caring about the millions of people in the breakaway holdouts of eastern Ukraine.

“If you don’t change the geopolitical lens, you will never understand us,” Mr. Nebenzya said, portraying Russia as the savior of eastern Ukrainians rather than an aggressor invading a neighboring nation.

“For us,” he said in reference to the separatist area of Ukraine, “these people living in Donbas are women, elderly and children who have for years been cowering from Ukraine’s shelling.” He added that the aim of Moscow’s military operation was “to protect the people who have been suffering from genocide.”

Ukraine’s ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, the last to speak as per protocol, looked shocked. His voice shaking with emotion, he said he had scrapped his prepared speech because Mr. Putin had “declared war on my country” as of 10 p.m. Eastern time.

“It is the responsibility of this body to stop the war,” Mr. Kyslytsya told the gathering. “I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war.”

The meeting had started with a sliver of hope, albeit fading, that diplomacy and negotiations could stand a chance.

The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, whose comments are often measured, opened the session by pleading with Mr. Putin to stop.

“I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart,” Mr. Guterres said, “President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died.”

After more than two hours of speeches, the meeting ended with a tense exchange between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine called on Russia to relinquish its chair and duties as Council president.

“There is no purgatory for war criminals,” Mr. Kyslytsya said. “They go straight to hell, ambassador.”

After a bit of silence, Russia’s ambassador responded calmly.

“We aren’t being aggressive against the Ukrainian people, but against the junta in power in Kyiv,” he said.

He then announced the meeting adjourned.

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