Russia’s foreign minister was absent from the chamber as his country faced a major rebuke from the United States and others for its war in Ukraine at a UN Security Council meeting, and the US secretary of state Antony Blinken warned his fellow diplomats that “the very international order that we have gathered here to defend is being shredded before our eyes.”
“We cannot, we will not allow President Putin to get away with it,” Blinken said in remarks at Thursday’s meeting, held during the UN General Assembly’s high-level week.
The meeting came amid a week of escalating actions by Moscow, including an order to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops and planned “fake referendums” in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
“That President Putin chose 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 UN Charter, the UN General Assembly and this Council,” Blinken said. .
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was absent from the chamber for all but his own comments, in which he dismissed widespread international condemnation and again blamed Kyiv for the Moscow invasion. Several officials suggested that the top Russian diplomat leave the room because he did not want to hear the condemnations.
A senior US State Department official told reporters Thursday that “Russia really felt the hot breath of world opinion” at the meeting.
“I don’t think there was anyone in that Security Council room, from (Chinese Foreign Minister) Wang Yi to Tony Blinken, who gave Vladimir Putin or Lavrov an iota of comfort. Everybody said this war has to end,” the official said.
The official noted that Lavrov “didn’t show up until two minutes before his own speech, had one of his henchmen listen, to the extent that they were listening, and then let them know within a minute and a half of speaking.”
They said the Russian official who sat in the chamber for most of the meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, and his team “were virtually motionless throughout.”
However, “there were faces of disbelief around the table when (Lavrov) started litigating again in 2014 and calling the Ukrainians Nazis and doing the classic mirror image of Putin, accusing the rest of the world of everything Russia itself is doing. making. , including atrocities and human rights abuses, I mean, it was just ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass,'” they said.
Blinken and others, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, highlighted the atrocities uncovered in Ukraine, the war’s global impacts on things like food security, and called on Russia to stop rattling nuclear sabers.
The top US diplomat said Vladimir Putin’s threat to use “all available weapons systems” on Russia is “all the more threatening given Russia’s intention to annex large swaths of Ukraine in the coming days.”
“When that is complete, we can expect President Putin to characterize any Ukrainian effort to liberate this land as an attack on so-called Russian territory,” Blinken explained. “This from a country that, in January of this year, in this place, joined the other permanent members of the Security Council in signing a declaration affirming that, and I quote, ‘nuclear war can never be won and should never be won’. to rid. ‘ Yet another example of Russia violating commitments it has made to this body, and yet another reason why no one should take Russia at its word today.”
“All Council members must send a clear message that these reckless nuclear threats must cease immediately,” he said.
Blinken said Russia’s efforts to annex more Ukrainian territory, which US officials say is the expected next step after referendums called this week by the Russian-backed leaders of the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, they are “another dangerous escalation”. and repudiation of diplomacy”.
“It is even more alarming when combined with the leak operations that Russian forces have been carrying out in the parts of Ukraine they control,” Blinken said. “It is a diabolical strategy: violently uproot hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians; bus in Russians to replace them; call a vote; and manipulate the results to show almost unanimous support for joining the Russian Federation. Straight from the Crimean playbook.
He again called for responsibility for crimes uncovered in parts of Ukraine formerly occupied by Russia such as Bucha, Irpin, Izyum, where mass graves have been discovered and survivors have recounted acts of torture.
“These are not the acts of rogue units; they fit into a clear pattern throughout the territory controlled by Russian forces,” Blinken said. “This is one of the many reasons we support a variety of national and international efforts to collect and examine the mounting evidence of war crimes in Ukraine.”
Blinken reiterated that the United States will continue to support Ukraine and called on others to do the same.
“President Putin is making his choice. Now it’s up to all our countries to make our own. Tell President Putin to stop the horror that he started. Tell him to stop putting his interests above the interests of the rest of the world, including his own people. Tell him to stop demeaning this Council and everything it stands for,” Blinken said.
“One man chose this war. And a man can end that,” he said. “Because if Russia stops fighting, the war is over. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.”
This story has been updated with additional details.