Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador confronts Russian counterpart: 'There is no purgatory for war criminals'

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An eleventh-hour United Nations meeting seeking to stem potential fighting between Ukraine and Russia produced a rare, spontaneous exchange between the countries’ representatives.

During the meeting, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the council that his country wants peace but warned they were on the precipice of war and called on the council to stop Russian aggression. 

“It’s too late, my dear colleagues, to speak about de-escalation,” Kyslytsya said, as Russian forces piled near the border of the two countries. “I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war.”

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2022/02/21: Ukraine Permanent Representative to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya briefs media after emergency SC meeting on situation on Ukraine-Russia borders at UN Headquarters. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – 2022/02/21: Ukraine Permanent Representative to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya briefs media after emergency SC meeting on situation on Ukraine-Russia borders at UN Headquarters. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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Kyslytsya then specifically addressed his counterpart, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who was presiding over the meeting. He encouraged him to pick up the phone and call off the Russian government from invading his country 

“You have a smartphone. You can call,” Kyslytsya pressed.

“I have already said all I know at this point,” Nebenzia said in response.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2022/01/31: Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks during SC meeting on situation on Ukrainian-Russian borders at UN Headquarters.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – 2022/01/31: Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks during SC meeting on situation on Ukrainian-Russian borders at UN Headquarters.
(Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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Later in the meeting, Kyslytsya called on Nebenzia to relinquish his duties as the chairman of the meeting, while thanking other members for condemning the aggression.

“There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, Ambassador,” the Ukrainian said.

The two officials also disagreed about the military action, with the Ukrainian official describing it as an invasion while the Russian official called it a “special military operation.”

Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations (UN) Sergiy Kyslytsya (L) fist bumps US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield (R) after he speaking during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the Ukraine crisis, in New York, February 21, 2022. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations (UN) Sergiy Kyslytsya (L) fist bumps US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield (R) after he speaking during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the Ukraine crisis, in New York, February 21, 2022. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

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Kyslytsya criticized the term as “lunatic semantics.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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