The pleas for peace at the UN were drowned out by the racket of war in Ukraine

Credit: AP

The United Nations has been left impotent many times in its 72 year history. Rarely so publicly as tonight.

The organisation, created to maintain international peace and security when nations were in ruins after World War Two, was in emergency session pleading with Russia for peace as President Putin declared his war.

It was surreal to watch. The US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield had just called on Russia “to step back from the brink before it is too late” when the first rumours came that Putin was about to speak.

"It's too late my dear colleagues to speak about de-escalation... 48 minutes ago, your president declared a war on Ukraine"

Moments after news of President Putin's address reached the meeting, Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kysltsya urged his Russian counterpart to call his government and cease fire. Russian ambassador Vasily Nebenzya claimed it was not war, but a "special military operation"

Her colleague, the British ambassador to the UN, Dame Barbara Woodward was telling how there was “still time for restraint, reason and deescalation” as the Russian leader declared his “special military operation”.

It seemed to take forever for the message to reach the chamber. Then there was movement in the background as phones started to flash.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield addresses an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Ukraine.

I’m told by someone in the room the first knowledge anyone had was when rumours began to fly on social media. Russian diplomats got up and briefly left the chamber. One returned moments later, “like a ghost and handed the Ambassador a piece of paper.”

Of course the Ambassador he handed it to was his own, Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s representative to the UN and the man currently holding the presidency of this organisation designed to prosper peace.

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What a truly awful irony and unsurprisingly one not lost on the Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kysltsya.

“The ambassador of the Russian Federation has now confirmed his President has declared war on my country.” He was reprimanded for calling the “special operation” a war but already the explosions were echoing across Ukraine.

“There is no purgatory for war criminals,” the Ukrainian ambassador told his Russian colleague, “They go straight to hell.”

With that the meeting was adjourned. The pleas for peace drowned out by the racket of war.