Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has denounced Russia as “a terrorist state” at the UN Security Council in New York.
While Russian ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzya sat facing him, he said there had been 574 days of “pain, losses and struggle” since Russia’s invasion of his country.
“Russia has killed at least tens of thousands of our people and turned millions into refugees by destroying their homes,” he told the chamber.
“Most of the world recognises the truth about this war. It is a criminal and unprovoked aggression by Russia against our nation, aimed at seizing Ukraine’s territory and resources,” he said.
He said peoples and governments had lost confidence in the UN’s ability and willingness to defend sovereign borders and that the UN had been “ineffective” but that it was “capable of more”.
Mr Zelenskiy called for the UN general assembly to be given power to overcome the veto power held by Russia.
“This will be the first necessary step. It is impossible to stop the war because all efforts are vetoed by the aggressor, or those who condone the aggressor.”
The president left before the arrival of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, which came as US secretary of state Antony Blinken was accusing Russia of having “shredded” key provisions of the UN Charter.
When Mr Lavrov spoke later, as justification of his country’s invasion, he reiterated his claims that the West had staged a “coup” in Ukraine to install a pro-western president. He also defended Russia’s veto power at the UN as “legitimate.”
He accused the West of “selectively” turning to UN norms and principles on a case-by-case basis “based on their parochial geopolitical needs”.
Mr Lavrov said this had resulted in the “shaking of global stability” and the “exacerbation of new hotbeds of tensions” that risked global conflict.
The session was part of the UN General Assembly meeting this week, where Mr Zelenskiy’s audience was made up of other global leaders – including allies and representatives of countries that have sat on the fence about Russia’s invasion or have leant toward Moscow.
As the meeting focused on Ukraine began, Mr Nebenzya protested against Mr Zelenskiy’s participation on procedural grounds and began sparring with the council’s president, Albanian prime minister Edi Rama.
“We do not believe that the arguments you’ve advanced are compelling,” Mr Nebenzya told the chamber, reading from a script, as he repeatedly tried to stop Ukraine’s president from addressing the world leaders and foreign ministers gathered for the high-level meeting.
Mr Rama, who was chairing the meeting and was clearly frustrated with Mr Nebenzya’s interruptions, made a joke about how he was not engaging in a “special operation” to allow Mr Zelenskiy to speak – a reference to Russia’s vague euphemism for its invasion of Ukraine.
“Coming from you, all these lectures at violating the rules of this building is quite impressive,” Mr Rama said, telling the Russian representative that Mr Zelenskiy would not need to talk if Russia simply brought an end to the conflict it started in Ukraine.
After the sharp exchanges, Mr Zelenskiy began his remarks.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres also addressed the chamber, arguing that Russia’s invasion has worsened international relations more broadly and made it more difficult to solve other global problems.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in clear violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, is aggravating geopolitical tensions and divisions, threatening regional stability, increasing the nuclear threat, and creating deep fissures in our increasingly multipolar world,” he said.
“All this comes at a time when co-operation and compromise for multilateral solutions are needed more than ever, to tackle challenges from the climate crisis to unprecedented levels of inequality to disruptive technologies.” – Agencies