Just as United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres was making an appeal in the Security Council to Russian President Vladimir Putin to 'stop your troops from attacking Ukraine' and other Council members calling for de-escalation, restraint and diplomacy, the Russian leader announced the launch of a military operation in eastern Ukraine.
Guterres, who opened an emergency meeting of the 15-nation Security Council on Ukraine late Wednesday, in his brief off-the-cuff remarks said 'if indeed an operation is being prepared, I have only one thing to say from the bottom of my heart: President Putin, stop your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people have already died'.
Just minutes after Guterres' remarks in the Security Council, Putin announced the launch of a military operation in eastern Ukraine.
As the other Council Members, including India, spoke at the emergency meeting calling for restraint and de-escalation, there were reports of large explosions and artillery fire being heard in eastern Ukraine.
India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti was the eighth speaker at the Council meeting after Guterres, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Albania, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Ireland and his remarks came just minutes after Putin's announcement of the military operation.
Tirumurti told the Council that New Delhi had only two days ago at the Council meeting on Ukraine called for urgent de-escalation of tensions and emphasised on sustained and focused diplomacy to address all issues concerning the situation.
"However, we note with regret, that the calls of the international community to give time to the recent initiatives undertaken by parties to diffuse tensions were not heeded to. The situation is in danger of spiraling into a major crisis," he said.
India expressed its 'deep concern' over the developments, which if not handled carefully, may well undermine the peace and security of the region.
India called for an immediate de-escalation and refraining from any further action that could contribute to a worsening of the situation.
All Council members made their statements just after Putin's announcement and reiterated their appeals for de-escalation.
"We are here tonight because we believe, along with Ukraine, that a full-scale, further invasion into Ukraine by Russia is imminent. Tonight we're seeing the Russians close airspace, move troops into Donbas, and move forces into combat-ready positions.
"This is a perilous moment. And we are here for one reason and one reason only: to ask Russia to stop. Return to your borders. Send your troops, and your tanks, and your planes back to their barracks and hangars. And send your diplomats to the negotiating table. Back away from the brink, before it is too late," US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward said, "We are here tonight to call on Russia to avert war. For months, Russia has been holding a gun to Ukraine's head. Now, President Putin's finger is on the trigger. A full-scale conflict in a country of 44 million people will bring immense suffering, casualties on both sides and devastating humanitarian consequences."
She said that the UK will ratchet up economic consequences should Russia continue its aggression and added that 'there is still time for restraint, reason and de-escalation. But that time is now'.
Russia's Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia, President of the Security Council for the month of February, was the last of the Council members to speak at the meeting.
He said that 'during this meeting', Putin said he has made a 'decision for a special military operation' in the Donbas.
"We don't know all the details today but briefly I would like to inform you that from his statement, it says that the occupation of Ukraine is not in our plans.
"The aim of this special operation is to protect the people who for over eight years have been suffering genocide from the Kyiv regime. And for this we will aim to demilitarise and de-genocide Ukraine and also hold accountable those who carried out so many crimes against civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation."
Nebenzia said, 'this decision was made in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter' and fulfilling the agreement on recognition of the LPR and DPR, referring to the Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics.
"We're receiving a lot of information and we will analyze this and we will keep you up to speed with this," he said.
Ukraine's envoy at the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya, speaking after Russia, said that 'before I try to deliver parts of the statement that I came here with tonight, most of it is already useless since 10pm New York time, I would like to cite Article 4 of the UN Charter'.
Holding up the UN Charter, he said the article states that membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace loving states.
"So when I was coming here an hour ago, I was intending to ask the Russian Ambassador to confirm on the record that the Russian troops will not start firing at Ukrainians today and go ahead with the offensive.
"It became useless 48 minutes ago because about 48 minutes ago, your President declared war on Ukraine. So now I would like to ask the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to say on the record that at this very moment, your troops do not shell and bomb Ukrainian cities, that your troops do not move in the territory of Ukraine. You have a smartphone, you can call (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov right now."
Nebenzia said 'waking up' Lavrov 'at this time is not something I plan to do'.