KYIV, Sept 22 - The United States urged other nations to tell Russia to stop making nuclear threats and end “the horror” of its war in Ukraine as all three countries’ top diplomats spoke — but didn’t quite meet — at a high-profile U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday.
Held alongside the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders, the session followed a striking development in the war this week: Russia called up a portion of its reserves for the first time since World War II. At the same time, President Vladimir Putin said his nuclear-armed country would “use all means available to us” to defend itself if its territory is threatened, The Associated Press reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken saw Putin’s remark as particularly menacing 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 nonbinding. But, in their wake, Moscow might see any Ukrainian attempt to retake those areas as an attack on “Russian territory,” Blinken warned.
“Every council member should send a clear message that these reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov didn’t mention his country’s nuclear capacity or the 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 7-month-long war.
The Security Council has held dozens of contentious meetings on Ukraine since the war began in February, but Thursday’s session had special stature.
“That President Putin picked this week, as most of the world gathers at the United Nations, to add fuel to the fire he started shows his utter contempt and disdain for the U.N. Charter, the U.N. General Assembly and this council,” Blinken told foreign ministers around the group’s famous horseshoe-shaped table.
“Tell President Putin to stop the horror he started. Tell him to stop putting his interests above the interests of the rest of the world, including his own people,” Blinken added.
Regardless, no one expects the council to act against Russia, since Moscow has veto power as a permanent member.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he thought Lavrov didn’t care to hear “the collective condemnation of this council.”
The International Criminal Court opened an investigation in March into possible crimes amid the war and sent teams to gather evidence. Prosecutor Karim Khan told the council Thursday that he’s dispatching more ICC staffers next week to look into allegations emerging from eastern Ukraine.
Khan hasn’t yet announced any charges linked to the conflict, but he reiterated that he believes there are reasonable grounds to think that crimes have been committed.
“The picture that I’ve seen so far is troubling indeed,” he said.
The meeting came less than a week after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the discovery of a mass burial site near a northeastern city, Izium, that had recently been recaptured from Russian forces. Zelensky said investigators found evidence that some of the dead were tortured. (ap/ez)