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Russia vetoes U.N. Security Council resolution denouncing Ukraine invasion

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The fighting in Ukraine has reached the capital. In a moment, we'll speak with a Ukrainian journalist about what he sees in Kyiv. And last night, Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that called on it to withdraw from Ukraine. NPR's Michele Kelemen has been following what led up to the vote. Michele, thanks very much.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: What was the point of introducing the resolution and having the vote if everybody knew it would only be vetoed by Russia?

KELEMEN: Yeah, I mean, Russia's not only a veto holder. It also has the presidency of the Security Council this month, so it's a very odd scene to watch the Russian ambassador presiding over a meeting like that. But the U.S. wanted to bring up this vote to force countries to go on the record. Take a listen to what the U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, had to say before the vote.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: To those who say all parties are culpable, I say that is a clear copout. Russia is the aggressor here. There is no middle ground.

KELEMEN: And, you know, Scott, that was a message to countries like China, which talks a lot about upholding sovereignty and the U.N. charter but has been growing close to Russia. It tried to walk a fine line and abstained in the vote, as did India and the United Arab Emirates. But the 11 other Security Council members voted for the resolution. Only Russia voted no.

SIMON: Of course, Michele, the vote comes just days after the U.N. Security Council had a meeting to try to promote diplomacy just as President Putin announced the start of the invasion. I wonder what kind of response diplomats have had to that.

KELEMEN: Yeah. You know, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called that night the saddest moment of his tenure, and he was equally somber yesterday after Russia vetoed that resolution. Take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTONIO GUTERRES: The United Nations was born out of war to end war. Today, that objective was not achieved.

KELEMEN: He said the U.N. is, you know, not just the Security Council chamber. It's also aid workers all over the world who are now ramping up in Ukraine. Guterres announced a crisis coordinator for Ukraine. That's Amin Awad of Sudan. He's someone who's worked on refugees issues for a long time, and the U.N. is really worried that this conflict is going to create a new refugee crisis in Europe.

And there's another concern. About 50% of the World Food Program's wheat supplies come from Ukraine. And so if the war disrupts that, it could have a knock-on effect in other crises around the world in places like Yemen or Afghanistan.

SIMON: Michele, is there any current prospect for diplomacy on Ukraine?

KELEMEN: Well, you know, Russia and Ukraine both say they're open for a dialogue, but it's really hard to see what they're going to talk about. Russian President Vladimir Putin seems intent on regime change in Ukraine. He's described the Ukrainian government as drug addicts and Nazis, even though Ukraine's president is actually Jewish. And at the Security Council yesterday, you mostly had ambassadors hurling insults at each other. Russia's ambassador dismissed all the reports of Russian attacks that have killed civilians as fake news. Ukraine's ambassador said that Russians have no credibility and shouldn't even be presiding over the Security Council.

SIMON: NPR's Michele Kelemen, thanks so much.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.