President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on a special UN tribunal to impose “just punishments” on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, including fines and the removal of Moscow’s veto power in the Security Council.
Zelenskyy’s taped address to world leaders at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday came after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Moscow’s first war mobilization since World War II and threatened to target Russia in what he described as crucial East-West conflict to defend with nuclear weapons.
Moscow plans to recruit some 300,000 troops in an apparent escalation of its invasion of Ukraine, which began in February and has left thousands dead, millions displaced and cities reduced to rubble.
“A crime was committed in Ukraine and we demand a just punishment,” Zelenskyi told the UN panel.
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“A special tribunal should be created to punish Russia for the crime of aggression against our state… Russia should pay for this war with its assets,” said the Ukrainian president, calling on the UN to “abolish Russia’s veto power.” as a member of the Security Council.
Zelenskyy laid out five non-negotiable conditions for peace. These included punishment of Russian aggression, restoration of Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity, and security guarantees.
Many delegates at the United Nations gave Zelenskyj a standing ovation at the end of his speech.
Putin ordered conscription in a televised address earlier Wednesday, in which he also announced the annexation of four Ukrainian provinces and threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, declaring “this is not a bluff.”
The main task of the reservists will be to reinforce the front line in Ukraine, which is currently over 1,000 km (621 miles) long, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
The reservists need training and Western military analysts said it will be several months before they see any action.
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PROTESTS AGAINST MOBILIZATION
Flights from Russia quickly sold out and jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for mass demonstrations against the mobilization.
Independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info said more than 1,300 people had been arrested at protests as of Wednesday evening.
Without evidence, Putin accused officials in NATO countries of threatening to use nuclear weapons against Russia. They should know that “the weathervane can turn to them,” he said, adding that Russia “also has various means of destruction.”
“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”
US President Joe Biden responded in a speech to the UN General Assembly: “Once again, just today, President Putin openly issued nuclear threats against Europe, in reckless disregard for the responsibility of the non-proliferation regime.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Putin’s “irresponsible escalation of the war,” saying, “Putin’s behavior only shows that his invasion is failing.”
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The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies confirmed their cooperation in expanding support to Ukraine and responding to food and energy security at a meeting in New York on Wednesday, Japan’s foreign ministry said.
“It is clear that Russia wants to destroy Ukraine,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “We will not be intimidated.”
Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday carried out an unexpected prisoner swap, the largest since the war began, involving nearly 300 people, including 10 foreigners and the commanders who led an extended Ukrainian defense of Mariupol earlier this year.
The foreigners released included two Britons and a Moroccan man who were sentenced to death in June after being captured fighting over Ukraine. According to a Saudi ministry, three other Britons, two Americans, a Croat and a Swede were also released in the deal brokered by Saudi Arabia.
The released Ukrainians were captured earlier this year after a long struggle over the port city of Mariupol, including senior military commanders, said Andriy Yermak, the head of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office.
The moves come at a time when Russia has faced a series of battlefield failures and its invading forces have been redeployed to northeastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces say they are now ready to advance deeper into territory Moscow captured in months of heavy fighting.
“No amount of threat and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, the international community is united and Russia is becoming a global pariah,” said British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
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Russia’s mobilization may be the riskiest domestic political move in Putin’s two decades in power, and it followed months of Kremlin promises that it would not do so.
The war so far seems to enjoy popular support in a country where all independent media has been shut down and public criticism of the “special military operation” is banned.
But for many ordinary Russians, especially those in the urban middle class, the prospect of being sent to fight would be the first indication that the war is affecting them personally.
Men were seen studying draft papers in the Moscow subway.
“In moments like these, you always worry. Because you have a wife and kids and you think about it,” a resident told Reuters.
Several Western military experts said recruiting hundreds of thousands of new troops would take months, would do little to slow Russia’s losses, and could even make the situation worse by diverting resources from the battlefield to train and equip recruits.
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