NEW YORK — US President Joseph R. Biden delivered a scathing broadside against Russia at the United Nations on Wednesday, saying Moscow had launched an invasion aimed at “extinguishing” Ukraine and that “horrifying evidence” of war crimes existed.
“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” he said at the UN headquarters in New York. “Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold.”
Russia must be held accountable for any war crimes committed in Ukraine, Mr. Biden said, adding that Washington was working on the issue with its international partners.
Biden spent a significant amount of time talking about Russia’s “brutal, needless war” in Ukraine, which has seen Kiev notch a number of recent battlefield victories as it aims to recapture territory seized by Russia in the nearly seven-month-old conflict.
The US leader spoke just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists. The Kremlin chief also gave his support for Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine to become part of the Russian Federation.
Mr. Biden told the leaders gathered at the 77th General Debate of the UN General Assembly that Moscow had “shamelessly violated” the UN charter, which outlines the organization’s fundamental principles, and that the world must be “firm and unwavering” in denouncing the war.
He also touched on the topic of nuclear threats, following Mr. Putin’s promise that Russia would use any means necessary to defend itself. “This is not a bluff,” the Russian leader said earlier on Wednesday.
“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” Mr. Biden said.
Later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the assembly that Russia is not seriously interested in peace talks as he called for “punishment for aggression.”
“Ukraine wants peace. Europe wants peace. The world wants peace. And we have seen who is the only one who wants war,” Mr. Zelensky said in a pre-recorded video, calling on the international community to punish Russia for its “crimes of aggression against our state.”
“They talk about the talks but announce a military mobilization. They talk about the talks but announce pseudo referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine,” said Mr. Zelensky, who was allowed to address the body remotely due to the war after a motion was approved by UN member states. “Russia wants war.”
“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” Mr. Zelensky said, adding that Russia must be punished for the killing, torture, humiliation and disastrous turmoil it has thrown Ukraine into.
Mr. Zelensky also used his address to call for further military and financial aid.
“We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms. But we need time,” he said, also calling for Russia to be stripped of its vote in international institutions and UN Security Council veto.
“So long as the aggressor is a party to decision-making in the international organizations, he must be isolated from them – at least until aggression lasts. Reject the right to vote. Deprive delegation rights. Remove the right of veto – if it is a Member of the UN Security Council.”
Mr. Zelensky called for further visa restrictions for Russian citizens and for the UN to support an international compensation mechanism. “Russia should pay for this war with its assets,” he said.
The leader also warned of a potential international nuclear disaster in view of the situation at the contested Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.
“Russian radiation blackmail is something that should concern each and every single one of you,” Mr. Zelensky said forcefully, “because none of you will find a vaccine against radiation sickness.”
The Russian-controlled nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, has repeatedly come under fire in recent weeks, raising international concern about a potential nuclear disaster. Moscow and Kiev have blamed each other for the attacks.
Mr. Zelensky received enthusiastic applause for his speech for nearly a minute, something that happens rarely in the General Assembly. Meanwhile Russia representatives remained seated.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro were among those who gave speeches to the General Assembly on Tuesday. Over 140 heads of state and government are expected to have attended the week-long event by the time it ends next week.
Mr. Putin is not attending, however, and has sent Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to represent Moscow instead. — Reuters