UN showdown looms as Ukraine demands Russia stripped of veto power
- Zelenskiy poses five preconditions for peace
- Putin threatens to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia
- Russia to enlist some 300,000 people
- A major prisoner exchange takes place
NEW YORK/KYIV, Sept 22 (Reuters) – Ukraine has demanded that the United Nations punish Russia for its invasion and remove its Security Council veto as a showdown looms on Thursday when the United Nations Security Council UN met on the atrocities committed in Ukraine.
The Security Council meeting comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russians to fight in Ukraine, moved to annex swathes of Ukrainian territory and threatened to use weapons nuclear.
“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.
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Zelenskiy called for a special United Nations tribunal to impose “just punishment” on Russia and for Moscow to be stripped of its Security Council veto.
The council was unable to take meaningful action on Ukraine because Russia is a permanent member with veto power along with the United States, France, Britain and China. Thursday’s meeting will be at least the 20th time the Security Council has met on Ukraine this year.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will face his Ukrainian and Western counterparts, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan brief the 15-member Security Council.
Ukraine, the United States and others have accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine. Russia denies targeting civilians during what it calls its “special military operation”, describing the accusations of human rights abuses as a smear campaign.
On Wednesday, Putin ordered Moscow’s first wartime mobilization since World War II, with plans to immediately begin drafting some 300,000 troops to fight on the front line.
He called the invasion of Ukraine, which began in February and left thousands dead, displaced millions and reduced cities to rubble, a decisive East-West clash
Mobilizing Russia is perhaps the riskiest domestic policy move in Putin’s two decades in power, and months followed by promises from the Kremlin he would do no such thing, and comes at a time when Russia is facing a series of failures on the battlefield.
Fear of being conscripted has seen flights out of Russia sell out quickly and jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny has called for mass protests against the mobilization. Read more
Independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said nearly 1,400 people in 38 Russian cities were arrested during protests on Wednesday night.
Putin ordered military recruitment in a televised address in which he also announced moves to annex four Ukrainian provinces and threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, saying, “It’s not a bluff.”
Pro-Russian figures have announced referendums for September 23-27 in the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, representing around 15% of Ukrainian territory.
US President Joe Biden, in a speech to the UN General Assembly, responded: “Even today, President Putin has openly made nuclear threats against Europe, in reckless disregard of the regime’s responsibilities of non-compliance. -proliferation. Read more
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Putin’s “irresponsible escalation of war”, saying that “Putin’s behavior only shows that his invasion is failing”.
European Union foreign ministers agreed on Wednesday to prepare new sanctions against Russia and increase arms deliveries to Kyiv. Read more
“It’s clear that Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters after ministers met to decide how to react.
Foreign ministers from the advanced economies of the Group of Seven (G7) confirmed at a meeting in New York on Wednesday their cooperation in extending support to Ukraine, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said. Read more
Russia and Ukraine carried out an unexpected prisoner exchange on Wednesday, the largest since the start of the war and involving nearly 300 people, including 10 foreigners and the commanders who led an extended Ukrainian defense of Mariupol earlier this year. Read more
Among the foreigners freed were two Britons and a Moroccan who were sentenced to death in June after being captured fighting for Ukraine. Three other Britons, two Americans, a Croat and a Swede were also released as part of the Saudi-brokered deal, according to a Saudi ministry.
The freed Ukrainians were captured after a long battle for the port city of Mariupol earlier this year and included senior military commanders, said Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskiy’s office. Read more
Several Western military experts have said recruiting hundreds of thousands of new troops would take months, do little to slow Russia’s losses, and could even make matters worse by taking resources away from the battlefield to train and equip recruits.
In Moscow’s first update on the number of casualties in nearly six months, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed since the conflict began. Read more
The war has so far appeared to have popular support in Russia where independent media have all been shut down and public criticism of the “special military operation” is banned.
But for many ordinary Russians, especially in the urban middle classes, the prospect of being sent into combat would be the first hint of the war affecting them personally.
In the Moscow metro, men could be seen studying appeal papers.
“You always feel worried at times like these. Because you have a wife and children and you think about it,” one resident told Reuters.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien & Shri Navaratnam
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