Ukraine appealed to the international community Monday to condemn Russia’s deadly missile strikes on its capital and several other cities, and to reject Moscow’s attempt to annex four regions of eastern and southern Ukraine.
“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 smoldering human flesh,” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told a special meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
Kyslytsya said at least 84 missiles and two dozen drones had been launched at cities across Ukraine, leaving a trail of death and destruction.
“Energy facilities, residential buildings, schools and universities, museums and crossroads in the city centers were among the targets that the Russian Defense Ministry later declared legitimate,” he said. “The entire world has once again seen the true face of the terrorist state that kills our people.”
Monday’s special emergency session was convened to discuss Russia’s so-called referendums and attempted annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine’s east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the country’s south. But it was overshadowed by the airstrikes that rained down on Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kyiv, which had been quiet since June.
Of the 20 countries that spoke, all but Russia condemned the latest attacks, some noting they could rise to war crimes.
Moscow’s envoy said Monday’s strikes were in response to Saturday’s bombing of the bridge linking Crimea to the Russian mainland.
“We warned that this will not be conducted with impunity,” Vassily Nebenzia said. “When you do these acts of sabotage, when you kill those who are unfavorable to you, the Kyiv regime is on the same level with the most outrageous terrorist organizations.”
Ukraine has strongly suggested its security agents carried out the truck bomb attack on the bridge but has not publicly claimed responsibility.
Of the Kremlin’s “referendums” and “annexation,” Nebenzia said an “absolute majority” in the four regions supported the idea of joining Russia.
“In the east and south of Ukraine, peaceful civilians are dying, and the people in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia know that very well. And that’s why they decided to opt for the future with Russia,” Nebenzia said. “I call upon you to respect their choice.”
The General Assembly debate will resume again Wednesday morning, and another 45 countries have requested to take the floor. Among them, a few Russian allies, including Belarus, North Korea and Syria. Of Russia’s friends in the BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), only China has signaled it will address the assembly.
African nations are notably absent from the debate, with only the Democratic Republic of Congo so far planning to take the floor.
The United States will speak at the end of the debate. Ahead of Monday’s meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that no country of principle could be unmoved by the horrors Russia is inflicting on Ukraine.
“The international community has a responsibility to make clear that President [Vladimir] Putin’s actions are completely unacceptable,” he said. “Now is the time to speak out in support for Ukraine. It is not the time for abstentions, placating words or equivocations under claims of neutrality. The core principles of the U.N. Charter are at stake.”
The debate will culminate with the 193-nation assembly being asked to vote on a resolution put forward by Ukraine and the European Union condemning and rejecting Russia’s move to annex Ukrainian territory.
“Russia is putting global peace and security at risk,” EU envoy Silvio Gonzato said. “If we do not condemn the actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine today, then we condone similar blatant attacks on any and all of our countries tomorrow.”
Russia’s ambassador tried but failed repeated procedural maneuvers to turn what will be a public, recorded vote into a secret ballot.