The UN is “sick” and has been hit by "the virus spread by the Kremlin,” Ukraine's UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said late Monday.
"That's a matter of fact," Kyslytsya said at an urgent UN Security Council meeting to discuss Russia's decision to recognize the independence of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
"Will it succumb to this virus? It’s in the hands of the members."
In his opening remarks, the Ukrainian envoy removed his mask "with unease," saying he is doing so not because of COVID-19 but "it is because of the virus that has so far no vaccine, the virus that hit the United Nations and the virus that is spread by the Kremlin."
In his speech, Kyslytsya condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin's order to deploy additional Russian troops for alleged peacekeeping missions in the territory of Ukraine.
"We demand their complete withdrawal," he added.
Putin announced Russia’s recognition of the regions in a speech Monday in which he also attacked Ukraine’s government and the US and accused the West of ignoring Moscow's core security concerns.
Along with Russia’s military buildup, tensions have recently risen dramatically in eastern Ukraine, with reports of a growing number of cease-fire violations, multiple shelling incidents, and the evacuation of civilians from the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The US and its European allies have said that Russia is setting the stage to invade Ukraine after having amassed over 100,000 troops and heavy equipment in and around its neighbor.
Russia has denied that it is preparing to invade and instead accuses Western countries of undermining its security through NATO’s expansion towards its borders.
In 2014, Moscow began supporting separatist forces in eastern Ukraine against the central government, a policy that it has maintained since then. The conflict has taken more than 13,000 lives, according to the UN.