Ireland has joined other key member states on the United Nations Security Council in demanding that Russia be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told the council on Thursday that Russia, the country that made a deliberate decision to start the conflict, must now make the decision to end it.
He said Russia must withdraw from Ukraine and “be held accountable for its actions, through the international bodies and structures we have together created for this purpose”.
Mr Coveney added: “This is not just about Ukraine. This is about the entirety of the UN membership. If we do not reject Russia’s actions in the clearest and most stark terms, we allow the world to be governed by force, and not through dialogue.”
Mr Coveney said Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had engaged in “more disinformation” in his address to the UN security council when he denied any atrocities had taken place. The Minister said what he had seen in Bucha in Ukraine earlier this year after Russian forces had withdrawn from the town was not a fabrication. “I think in time we will see the International Criminal Court make very clear determinations in terms of the accusations around war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan told the security council there were “reasonable grounds” to believe crimes within the jurisdiction of the court had been committed in Ukraine. The court, which is based in the Hague in the Netherlands, handles war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes of aggression.
Mr Khan said the ICC investigation priorities were intentional targeting of civilian objects and the transfer of populations from Ukraine, including children.
The United States, United Kingdom and other members of the security council called for nations to ensure Russia was held accountable for atrocities they maintained that Moscow’s forces had carried out in Ukraine.
“We must make clear to president Putin that his attack on the Ukrainian people must stop... that there can be no impunity for those perpetrating atrocities,” British foreign secretary James Cleverly said. He urged the world to reject Moscow’s “catalogue of lies”.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, defended the invasion. He said the West had forced Russia to launch it’s so-called special military operation to protect its own security. Mr Lavrov, who did not stay in the chamber to hear criticism of the war from other member states, rejected accusations of abuses by Russian forces in Ukraine.
“The United States and their allies with the connivance of international human rights organisations have been covering the crimes of the Kyiv regime,” he claimed.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken promised that Washington would continue to support Ukraine to defend itself.
“The very international order we’ve gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes. We can’t let president Putin get away with it.”
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said the priority was to resume dialogue without pre-conditions and for both sides to exercise restraint and not escalate tensions.
“China’s position on Ukraine is clear. The sovereignty, territorial integrity of all countries should be respected and the reasonable security concerns of all countries should be taken seriously,” he said.
UN general secretary Antonio Guterres told the meeting that talk of a nuclear conflict was “totally unacceptable”.
Deadly explosions hit Kyiv-held and occupied cities in southern and eastern Ukraine, as Kremlin-controlled parts of those areas prepared for so-called referendums on joining Russia.
Several people were killed on Thursday in explosions in occupied Melitopol and Donetsk and a missile strike on Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia, a day before Russian-held parts of Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions were due to start what Kyiv and the West dismiss as “sham” voting.
Russia is poised to try to annex the regions after the supposed referendums, and its former president, Dmitry Medvedev, said Moscow would then defend those areas with everything in its arsenal, “including strategic nuclear weapons”.
In his speech to the UN general assembly, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that in the light of such threats and the Kremlin’s all-out invasion of his country, the world “must finally recognise Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism”.
After the biggest prisoner swap since Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbour in February, Ukraine hailed the release of 205 Ukrainians and 10 foreigners, in exchange for 55 Russian soldiers and Viktor Medvedchuk, the most prominent pro-Kremlin politician in Ukraine and a personal friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin.