Hong Kong’s bid to cope with a spiralling Covid-19 crisis has often been referred to as a war. There have certainly been casualties. But as the city struggles to “defeat” the virus, a real war has erupted in Europe. The devastating events unfolding in Ukraine pose a grave threat to global peace and security. Russia’s invasion of its neighbour is leaving a trail of death and destruction, as missiles rain down on Ukrainian cities and tanks roll in. Civilians are among the dead and wounded. The images are harrowing and shocking. There has been much debate about the cause of these appalling events and where the blame lies. But whichever narrative you prefer, the carnage in Ukraine must be viewed with a strong sense of moral outrage. This is a human tragedy and it is plainly wrong. The words of the United Nations Charter should have meaning. This historic document, forged during the dark days of the second world war, was intended to ensure international cooperation would prevent the horrors of that global conflict ever being repeated. The preamble declares the UN is “determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind …” It requires that states “practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours”. One of the prime purposes of the UN is to ensure “the suppression of acts of aggression”. The Statute of Rome, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998, creates a crime of aggression, committed by individuals who exercise political or military control over a state. It includes the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another country. Amendments made the crime subject to the court’s jurisdiction in 2018. It is not surprising the ICC’s prosecutor has received “multiple queries” about the application of these provisions to the conflict in Ukraine. But neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the Rome Statute, so the court has no power to act on the crime of aggression. The prosecutor said his office was watching with increasing concern and stressed the court does have jurisdiction over other offences including war crimes. What lessons are there for China in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? The United Nations, sadly, has not succeeded in ridding the world of war. There have been numerous conflicts since the Charter was signed. There is little prospect of it being able to resolve the situation in Ukraine. Russia, a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council, currently holds the rotating presidency. Ironically, it chaired an emergency meeting called to consider a response to its own attack. Russia also vetoed a UN Security Council resolution denouncing its invasion, while 11 other members voted in favour and three abstained. China was among the abstentions. It is treading a delicate path given its adherence to “non-intervention” and Russia’s role as a quasi-ally amid ongoing tensions with the West. But the invasion breaches the fundamental principles upon which China’s foreign policy is founded. President Xi Jinping, calling for a diplomatic resolution in a telephone call with Putin on Friday, said: “China’s basic position on respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries and abiding by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter is consistent.” If any nation is able to exert some influence on Putin and make him see sense it is China. Its credentials as a responsible player on the world stage would be greatly enhanced if it was able to help bring a swift end to the war. Meanwhile, we watch with horror and hope for the best. Our thoughts are with those affected by the violence in Ukraine. There have been anti-war protests around the world, including in Russia. There was a small one in Hong Kong. A sign held by a Russian IT worker at that demonstration strikes a chord. It said “no friend, or foes, only casualties”. Peace must be given a chance.