Ukraine has condemned Russia as a “terrorist state” for launching missile attacks on major cities, including the capital Kyiv, at a United Nations General Assembly meeting initially called to discuss Moscow’s annexation of four partly-occupied regions of Ukraine.
“Russia has proven once again that this is a terrorist state that must be deterred in the strongest possible ways,” said Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN in his opening remarks, adding his own immediate family had come under attack.
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“Unfortunately, you can hardly call for a stable and sane peace as long as an unstable and insane dictatorship exists in your vicinity,” he added, telling member states at least 14 civilians had been killed and 97 wounded in the attacks, which began on Monday morning.
In response, Vassily Nebenzia of Russia did not directly address the missile strikes but defended his country’s annexation of the four Ukrainian regions.
“We are being accused when we are trying to protect our brothers and sisters in eastern Ukraine,” he said.
The assembly is set to vote later in the week on a draft resolution condemning Russia’s “attempted illegal annexations” of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia and Kherson following “so-called referendums”, stressing they have “no validity under international law”.
It calls on all states, international organisations and agencies not to recognise the annexations and demands the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
Russia’s bid for the 193-member body to make the vote a secret ballot was rejected, with only 13 countries supporting the call.
Russia moved to annex the four Ukrainian regions last month after staging a series of referendums that went ahead with only a few days’ notice. Ukraine and its allies have condemned the votes as illegal and coercive.
‘Trail of blood’
Ukraine’s Kyslytsya called on countries to defend the principles of the founding UN Charter.
“A trail of blood is left behind the Russian delegation when it enters the General Assembly and the hall is filled up with the smell of smouldering human flesh. That’s what we have tolerated in Syria. That’s what is happening today in Ukraine,” he told the General Assembly.
Moscow has blamed Ukraine’s special forces for the attack with President Vladimir Putin vowing even more “severe” retaliation.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “deeply shocked” by the raids, according to a spokesman.
“This constitutes another unacceptable escalation of the war and, as always, civilians are paying the highest price,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
The United States as well as the European Union also condemned the attacks, the most intense bombardment since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
The decision to bring the annexations before the General Assembly, where no country holds a veto, followed Russia’s veto of a similar resolution that was put to the 15-member Security Council on September 30.
During that vote, no other country sided with Russia, although four delegations — China, India, Brazil and Gabon — abstained.
Nearly three-quarters of the General Assembly reprimanded Moscow and demanded the withdrawal of its troops from Ukraine at a meeting held shortly after the invasion began.