UNITED NATIONS — The United States called on other nations to tell Russia to stop making nuclear threats and end “the horror” of its war in Ukraine as top diplomats from the three countries spoke, but did not quite meet, in a Council. high-profile UN Security Council. Thursday meeting.
Held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting of world leaders, the session followed a surprising development in the war this week: Russia called up part of its reserves for the first time since World War II. At the same time, President Vladimir Putin said his nuclear-armed country “will use all means at our disposal” to defend itself if its territory is threatened.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saw Putin’s comment as particularly threatening given plans for referendums in Russian-controlled parts of eastern and southern Ukraine on whether to become part of Russia.
Western nations have condemned those votes as illegitimate and non-binding. But in its wake, Moscow could view any Ukrainian attempt to retake those areas as an attack on “Russian territory,” Blinken warned.
“All council members must send a clear message that these reckless nuclear threats must be stopped immediately,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made no mention of his country’s nuclear capability or new troop mobilization during his own remarks at the council meeting, which France called to discuss accountability for alleged abuses and atrocities during the nearly seven-month war.
Instead, Lavrov repeated his country’s frequent claims that Kyiv has long oppressed Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine, one of Moscow’s explanations for the invasion, and that Western support for Ukraine is a threat to Russia.
“What is particularly cynical is the position of the states that are loading Ukraine with weapons and training their soldiers,” he said, saying their goal is to prolong the fight “to wear down and weaken Russia.”
“Such a policy means the direct involvement of the West in the conflict,” Lavrov said. He added that Ukraine had become “an anti-Russian arena to create threats against Russian security” and that his country would not accept it.
The Security Council has held dozens of contentious meetings on Ukraine since the war began in February, but Thursday’s session had a special stature.
“That President Putin chose this week, as most of the world gathers at the United Nations, to add fuel to the fire that he started shows his utter contempt and disdain for the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly and this advice,” Blinken told the outside. ministers around the council’s famous horseshoe-shaped table.
“Tell President Putin to stop the horror that he started. Tell President Putin to stop the horror that he started,” Blinken added.
Still, no one expects the council to act against Russia, as Moscow has veto power as a permanent member.
But the meeting was a rare moment for top Ukrainian and Russian diplomats to appear in the same room, made all the more extraordinary by the fact that Lavrov is under US sanctions.
In a sign of the charged atmosphere, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba apparently demurred as council staff prepared to put up a banner marking Ukraine’s seat next to Russia’s. The poster was eventually moved to another location.
Before the meeting, Kuleba wryly told reporters that he planned to maintain a “social distance” with Lavrov. But it turned out he didn’t have to: The Russian showed up just before he spoke and left right after, prompting Kuleba to joke later in his own speech that “Russian diplomats run almost as fast as soldiers.” Russians”.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he thought Lavrov did not mind hearing “the collective condemnation of this council”.
In another undiplomatic exchange, Lavrov accused the United States and its allies of covering up alleged misdeeds by the government of Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy by saying “he is a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch.” Kuleba then chided Russia for the “inappropriate jargon”.
Blinken argued that Russia should face more censorship and isolation for its invasion, pressuring other countries to join Washington’s strong condemnation of the conflict. He cited the discovery of mass graves in Ukraine and repeated claims by Ukrainians that they were tortured by Russian soldiers, while suggesting more could come.
The International Criminal Court opened an investigation in March into possible crimes in the midst of the war and sent teams to gather evidence. Prosecutor Karim Khan told the council on Thursday that he will send more ICC staff next week to investigate allegations emerging from eastern Ukraine.
Khan has not yet announced any charges related to the conflict, but he reiterated to the council that he believes there are reasonable grounds to believe crimes have been committed.
“The picture I’ve seen so far is really worrying,” he said.
Ukraine also wants a special court to be created to try alleged war crimes.
The meeting came less than a week after Ukraine’s Zelenskyy announced on Friday the discovery of a mass burial site near a northeastern city, Izium, that had recently been recaptured from Russian forces. Zelenskyy said investigators found evidence that some of the dead were tortured.
The discovery prompted France to send more investigators to join others who have been in Ukraine since hundreds of civilians were found dead in another town, Bucha, following a Russian pullout in late March, the foreign minister told the council. French, Catherine Colonna.
There are “so many violations of the laws of war and so many actions for which Russia must be held accountable,” he said.
Other council members also called for accountability, but in different tones.
“Investigations into violations of international humanitarian law must be objective and fair, based on fair facts, rather than an assumption of guilt, and without being politicized,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who has maintained strong ties with Russia.
Associated Press photographer Mary Altaffer contributed.
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