UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has stepped up his criticism of Russia’s recognition of two separatist-held enclaves as independent, calling it a “violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”

The remarks by Guterres, who cut short an overseas trip to return to UN headquarters in New York because of the Ukraine crisis, were among the strongest criticisms he has made against a major member country since he became the head of the world body in 2017.

“Our world is facing the biggest global peace and security crisis in recent years.

 

, certainly in my tenure as secretary-general,” Guterres, who became secretary general in 2017, told reporters. “We face a moment that I sincerely hoped would not come.”

Guterres said Russia’s action constituted a “death blow” to the Minsk agreements, a peace accord signed in 2014 and 2015 designed to end fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

“The principles of the UN Charter are not an a la carte menu,” he said. “They cannot be applied selectively. Member states have accepted them all and they must apply them all.”

In a strong response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Monday announcement, in which he ordered Russian forces into the breakaway territories for “peacekeeping  purposes, Guterres said he was “concerned about the perversion of the concept of peacekeeping.”

“When troops of one country enter the territory of another country without its consent, they are not impartial peacekeepers,” he said “They are not peacekeepers at all.”

The secretary-general also called for “an immediate ceasefire and the re-establishment of the rule of law.”

“We need restraint and reason,” he said. “We need de-escalation now. I urge all to refrain from actions and statements that would take this dangerous situation over the brink.”

The UN, in line with the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, “stands fully behind the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders”, stated the Secretary-General.

He reminded the reporters that the Organization continues to support the people of Ukraine through its humanitarian operations and human rights efforts.

“It is high time to return to the path of dialogue and negotiations. We must rally and meet this challenge together for peace, and to save the people of Ukraine and beyond from the scourge of war”, Guterres said.

“I am fully committed to all efforts to resolve this crisis without further bloodshed”.

The Secretary-General reiterated that his good offices are available and would not relent in the search for a peaceful solution.