U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on UN Security Council members to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning that the Kremlin leader’s invasion of Ukraine and attempts to annex more of its territory was threatening to destroy the international order.
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Putin is pushing four Kremlin-controlled territories of Ukraine to hold disputed votes for annexation into the Russian Federation beginning on September 23 amid the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II.
“The very international order that we have gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes. We cannot — we will not — allow President Putin to get away with it,” Blinken said on September 22 in New York.
Blinken said international support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is about protecting an international order, where no nation can redraw the borders of another by force.
“If we fail to defend this principle, when the Kremlin is so flagrantly violating it, we send a message to aggressors everywhere that they can ignore it, too. We put every country at risk,” he said.
He said Putin was “violently uprooting” thousands of Ukrainians and busing in Russian citizens to manipulate the results of this week’s vote on annexation, calling it a “diabolical strategy.”
The top U.S. diplomat also told the Security Council there is “mounting” proof of Russian war crimes in Ukraine and said he supported international efforts to collect and examine the evidence.
He described the violence as a “pattern” of behavior by Russian soldiers and not isolated acts of rogue units.
The UN “must hold the perpetrators accountable for these crimes,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan were set to brief the 15-member Security Council on investigations into possible war crimes in Ukraine.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and representatives from several EU states and Belarus were expected to speak.
Ukraine’s chief war crimes prosecutor is reportedly investigating nearly 26,000 suspected war crimes since Russia’s invasion in February. Ukraine has charged 135 people with war crimes and officials have recently said they uncovered fresh mass graves containing bodies, some with their hands tied behind their backs, when Ukrainian forces retook the eastern Ukrainian city of Izyum during a major counteroffensive.
Russia has denied targeting civilians during what it calls its “special military operation,” describing accusations of human rights abuses as a smear campaign.
The September 22 meeting marks the 20th time the Security Council has met to discuss the war in Ukraine this year. But despite Russia’s unprovoked invasion and subsequent accusations that its forces have committed war crimes, the Security Council has been unable to take any meaningful action against Moscow because of Russia’s veto powers as one of the five permanent members of the body.
Ukrainian President Zelenskiy has called for Russia to be stripped of its veto rights.
In a prerecorded message to the General Assembly on September 21, Zelenskiy demanded that a special United Nations tribunal impose “just punishment” on Russia for its invasion.
Earlier the same day, U.S. President Joe Biden said Moscow “shamelessly violated the core tenets” of the UN Charter with its “brutal, needless war.”
China, which has friendly relations with Moscow and also holds veto powers as a permanent member of the Security Council, will also be represented at the September 22 meeting.
During a discussion on the sidelines of the General Assembly on September 21, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Lavrov that his country would maintain an “objective” and “fair” position regarding the war in Ukraine, which is one of China’s biggest trading partners.
The same day, China called for a “cease-fire through dialogue” and for all countries’ “territorial integrity” to be respected.
The comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin came after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilization to bolster its forces in Ukraine.
Putin’s decree followed the September 20 announcement that Russian-occupied regions in eastern and southern Ukraine plan to hold votes on being incorporated into Russia.
The move to hold the referendums, which contradict international law and the UN Charter and which Western countries have already refused to recognize, are to begin on September 23 in Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya regions. All of the regions are partially controlled by Russian forces and are areas where Moscow has recently lost territorial gains.
Parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which collectively make up Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, have been under Russian-imposed administration since Moscow-backed separatist forces began fighting against Kyiv in 2014.
Putin has said his aim is to “liberate” Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, claiming without providing any proof that most people in the region did not want to return to what he called the “yoke” of Ukraine.