Ukraine War, May 6, 2022: Security Council statement endorses Guterres’ efforts, cites U.N. Charter obligation of peaceful settlement; Potential massacre of fighters at Azovstal steelworks; Thermobaric weapons

Developing. We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) María R. Sahuquillo (Zaporiyia), “Rusia intensifica los ataques contra la acería Azovstal, el último bastión de resistencia ucrania en Mariupol; Kiev denuncia que Moscú intenta eliminar a los soldados “con apoyo de aviones” y ha incumplido un alto el fuego para la evacuación de civiles refugiados en la siderúrgica,” El País, el 5 de mayo 2022 (11:43 EDT);

2) “Security Council ‘speaks with one voice for peace in Ukraine’, United Nations, UN News, May 6, 2022;

3) Jamey Keaten (AP), “Ukrainian troops unlikely to get easy exit from steel mill,” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington), updated May 5, 2022;

UPDATE

4) Carrie Nooten (New York, Nations Unies,),”Guerre en Ukraine : une amorce de reprise de diplomatie onusienne; Pour la première fois depuis le début de la guerre en Ukraine, le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU a, vendredi 6 mai, apporté à l’unanimité son « ferme soutien » à « la recherche d’une solution pacifique ». Une déclaration minimisée par l’ambassadeur russe à l’ONU, Le Monde, le 07 mai 2022 (à 11h49, mis à jour à 11h50).

5) Carrie Nooten (United Nations (New York), “War in Ukraine: The beginning of a resumption of UN diplomacy; For the first time since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the UN Security Council unanimously gave its ‘firm support’ to ‘the search for a peaceful solution’ on Friday,” Le Monde English Edition, May 8, 2022 (02h48, updated at 09h14).

Commentary

U.N. Security Council statement on Ukraine

In Mariupol, the Russians have permitted U.N. evacuations of civilians from the Azovstal steelworks. This appears to be in part due the the agreement in principle U.N. Secretary General António Guterres secured from Vladimir Putin during his trip to Moscow on April 26, and in part simply a maneuver to distract Western attention from attacks on civilians and war crimes in other parts of the country.

Still, Guterres’ visit to Moscow and the agreement in principle he obtained were important.

Today, the United Natiins Security Council issued an agreed statement on Ukraine.

“As I have often said, the world must come together to silence the guns and uphold the values of the UN Charter,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement.

“For the first time, the Security Council spoke with one voice for peace in Ukraine”.

Last week the UN chief flew to Europe where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv.

His diplomacy paved the way for joint UN-Red Cross humanitarian missions, which have so far evacuated about 500 civilians from Mariupol and the beleaguer steel plant in Azovstal.

He was referring to the presidential statement on Ukraine released minutes earlier by the Security Council.

“The Security Council expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine,” said the Council President for the month of May, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield of the United States, on behalf of the Ambassadors.

“The Security Council recalls that all Member States have undertaken, under the Charter of the United Nations, the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means,” the communication continued.

It went on to express “strong support” for the Secretary-General’s efforts to find a peaceful solution.

“The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to brief the Security Council in due course after the adoption of the present statement,” concluded the statement.

The adopted text was drafted by Norway and Mexico.

These are highly significant developments. The reference to the obligation of U.N. member states “under the Charter of the United Nations” to settle their international disputes by peaceful means is potentially of extraordinary significance, if it reflects more than an attempt by Russia to avoid acute diplomatic embarrassment.

Indeed, it is by such little steps that the Lilliputians at the United Nations can throw down their ropes in an attempt to tie down the rogue Russian state, like Gulliver, to the principles of the U.N. Charter and international law.

Urgent steps needed to avoid massacre of Ukrainian fighters at Azovstal steelworks

Nonetheless, a catastrophe at the Azov steelworks still looms, as the Russians may soon proceed to massacre the remaining Ukrainian fighters in the complex.

These soldiers appear to want to surrender, in order to avoid their annihilation. But they don’t trust the Russians, who in the past have promised safe surrenders and then proceeded to execute the surrendering soldiers.

The evacuation of civilians from the steelworks might even be used as a defense against charges if committing war crimes if, for example, they use thermobaric bombs to massacre the remaining Ukrainian fighters.

Thermobaric weapons are not explicitly banned by international humanitarian law, but their use may constitute a war crime if it does not distinguish between military and civilian targets.

Hence the Russians might argue they removed the civilians, and thier use of thermobaric weapons was not indiscriminate and therefore not a war crime.

Admittedly, the above analysis assumes that the Russians are beginning to be concerned about being responsible for war crimes, a concern not evidenced up to now.

The Trenchant Observer

***

See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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