Lavrov walks out of UN Security Council meeting as West clashes with Russia over war atrocities


Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on every member of the UN General Assembly to “send a clear message” to Russia to end its nuclear threats in the war in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that his nuclear-armed country will “certainly use all means at its disposal” if its territory is threatened and to defend the country and its people.

Blinken used a Council session on Thursday to criticize the Russian invasion and pressure other countries to join in Washington’s strong condemnations of the conflict. He listed the atrocities he said were committed by Russia – and suggested more might come.

“Every member of the council should send a clear message that these irresponsible nuclear threats must stop immediately,” he said.

The Security Council has held dozens of contentious meetings on Ukraine since the war began in February, but Thursday’s meeting had a special stature: it took place during the annual meeting of world leaders from the United Nations General Assembly and brought together several foreign ministers around the table.

Convened by France, the current President of the Council, the meeting focused on the issue of accountability for alleged abuses and atrocities, and the United States and other Western members have repeatedly accused Russia of have committed them.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, repeated his country’s frequent claims that Kyiv has long oppressed Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine – one of various explanations Moscow has offered for the ‘invasion.

Ukraine’s Western allies, he said, “cover up the crimes of the Kyiv regime”.

Lavrov was not in the room when Blinken and other American allies spoke, only appearing just before his own speech.

Despite Blinken’s strong words, no one expects the council to act against Russia since Moscow has veto power as a permanent member.

Instead, a US official said Blinken’s goal was to convince fellow members to impress upon Moscow the global damage caused by the war and demand that it end. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to preview Blinken’s speech before speaking.

The meeting came a day after President Joe Biden attacked Putin for what he called gross violations of the United Nations Charter and international law. At the Security Council, Blinken argued that Russia should face more censorship and isolation for its invasion.

Listing several allegations of war crimes and other atrocities, he called on countries that have yet to strongly denounce such crimes as an affront to the international order.

He noted that the war had not only caused massive destruction to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, but had also distracted the council from other global crises, including potential famines, climate change and widespread poverty.

As the meeting began, there were already signs of a charged atmosphere around the council’s famous horseshoe-shaped table.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wryly told reporters that he planned to keep a “safe social distance” from Lavrov.

And as council staffers moved to place a sign indicating Ukraine’s headquarters next to Russia’s, Kuleba apparently raised objections – the sign was moved to another location. Lavrov was not in the room at the time.

The International Criminal Court opened an investigation in March into possible crimes during the war and sent teams to collect evidence. Prosecutor Karim Khan told the council on Thursday that he would send more staff members next week to look into the allegations emanating from eastern Ukraine.

Khan has yet to announce any charges related to the dispute, 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 disturbing,” he said.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has pushed for the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute alleged war crimes.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s president presented a detailed case against the Russian invasion at the UN and demanded punishment from world leaders in a speech delivered just hours after Moscow made an extraordinary announcement that it would mobilize reservists for the ‘war effort.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed in a video address to world leaders that his forces would not stop until they reclaimed all of Ukraine.

“We can restore the Ukrainian flag throughout our territory. We can do it by force of arms,” he said. “But we need time.”

nbcnews

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