The powerful UN Security Council held an emergency meeting yesterday for the third time in four days as the crisis in Ukraine escalated. (Agencies)
During the stormy and lengthy session, Russian Ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin showed a letter purportedly from Yanukovich to President Vladimir Putin seeking Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
After the meeting, Churkin read out a translated but unofficial version of the letter to reporters.
"Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. The country has plunged into chaos and anarchy," Churkin said reading the letter.
"The country is in the grip of outright terror and violence driven by the West. People are persecuted on political and language grounds," he read from Yanukovich's letter dated March 1.
"In this context, I appeal to the President of Russia Vladimir V Putin to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation to re-establish the rule of law, peace, order, stability and to protect the people of Ukraine," the letter said.
Ukraine's envoy to UN, Yuriy Sergeyev, rejected Yanukovich's authority to seek foreign intervention in his country, saying only the Ukrainian Parliament has any say in asking for military intervention from foreign powers.
"He is nobody now in terms of the current situation in Ukraine," Sergeyev told reporters when asked to comment on Yanukovich's letter to Putin.
"He is nobody to speak, to count now. He is out of the country. The only legal body in Ukraine - our Parliament (which) according to the Constitution if needed could invite military assistance from abroad," Sergeyev said.
He said the Russians are using the pretext of protecting human rights to invade Ukraine but ‘it is our duty, if we are not capable to do so then the international community should tell us’.
Sergeyev earlier told the UNSC that Russia had deployed roughly 16,000 troops from Russian territory to Ukraine's autonomous region of the Crimea since February 24, which he described an illegal invasion.
He said the troops were in addition to those deployed by Russia for the Black Sea fleet in the Crimea under an arrangement with Kiev. Sergeyev sought UN's help in a letter sent to all 193 UN member states detailing Russia's takeover of crucial government and military facilities.
The UNSC session saw heated exchanges between Western envoys and the Russian envoy over the military deployment by Moscow in the Eastern European Country.
Defending his government's actions, Churkin said it is ‘fully appropriate and legitimate’ to defend the human rights of the Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine.
After the Russian envoy addressed the 15-member Council, US Ambassador Samantha Power said, "One might think that Moscow had just become the rapid response arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality."
She stressed the Russian military action in Ukraine is "not a human rights protection mission" but a "violation of international law and a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity" and a breach of Russia's Helsinki Commitments and its UN obligations.
Noting that if there are concerns about the rights of Russian-speaking minorities, she said United States is prepared to work with Russia and the UNSC to protect them.
Power said there was "no legal basis" for Russia to justify its military deployments in Ukraine through an invitation from the regional Prime Minister of Crimea, adding only Ukraine's Parliament could do that.
"Russia has every right to wish that events in Ukraine had turned out differently," she said.
"But it does not have the right to express that unhappiness by using military force or by trying to convince the world community that up is down and black is white,” she added.
Churkin rejected Power's statements, saying she must have gotten her information about Ukraine "from US TV".
He repeated Moscow's view that Yanukovich is Ukraine's legitimate leader, not interim President Oleksandr Turchynov.
British envoy Mark Lyall Grant also rejected Russian allegations of acts of terrorism and threats against ethnic Russians in Ukraine.
"It is clear that these claims have simply been fabricated to justify Russian military action," he said. He dismissed Yanukovich's letter to Putin as meaningless.
French Ambassador to UN, Gerard Araud, compared Russia's intervention in Ukraine to Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the margins of the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and discussed the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, while deputy UN chief Jan Eliasson arrived in Kiev for consultations.
Ban and Lavrov discussed the importance of de-escalating the situation by engaging in constructive and meaningful dialogue, said the Secretary-General's spokesperson.
The powerful UN Security Council held an emergency meeting yesterday for the third time in four days as the crisis in Ukraine escalated.