US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday demanded President Vladimir Putin be held to account as he faced Russia in a Security Council session in which the United Nations catalogued abuses in Ukraine.
“The very international order we’ve gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes,” Blinken told the Security Council in a special session as leaders met at the United Nations.
“We cannot — we will not — let President Putin get away with it,” he said.
Blinken accused Putin of adding “fuel to the fire” with recent steps including calling up reservists and planning referendums in Russian-held Ukrainian territory just as Kyiv made strong gains on the ground.
The top US diplomat said it was critical to show that “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 the message to aggressors everywhere that they can ignore it, too.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov — whom Blinken has refused to meet individually since the February invasion — lashed out at Western accusations.
“There’s an attempt today to impose on us a completely different narrative about Russian aggression as the origin of this tragedy,” Lavrov told the Security Council.
He accused Ukraine of “Russophobia,” including through its imposition of Ukrainian language rules.
“The United States and their allies with the connivance of international human rights organizations have been covering the crimes of the Kyiv regime,” Lavrov said.
France, the current head of the Security Council, called the session to highlight the quest for accountability in Ukraine.
“There is no peace without justice,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told reporters.
Opening the session, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the UN rights body has seen “a catalog of cruelty — summary executions, sexual violence, torture and other inhumane and degrading treatment against civilians and prisoners of war.
‘Echoes of Nuremburg’
“All these allegations must be thoroughly investigated, to ensure accountability,” he said, without directly pointing the finger at Russia.
“Perpetrators must be held to account in fair and independent judicial proceedings. Victims and their families have a right to justice, remedy and reparation,” Guterres said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the General Assembly on Wednesday, demanded a special tribunal and “punishment” for Russia over its invasion and abuses.
Highlighting evidence from Ukraine was Karim Khan, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which announced an investigation into possible war crimes just days after Russia invaded its neighbor in February.
“In my view the echoes of Nuremburg should be heard today,” he told the Security Council Thursday, referring to the German city where Nazi war crimes trials were held.
Khan has traveled to Ukraine and visited the town of Bucha, where the discovery of dozens of bodies in the streets and in mass graves horrified the world.
Moscow at the time dismissed the atrocities as fake, and on Thursday Lavrov said Ukraine’s efforts to blame Russia for war crimes was a “propaganda operation.”
But Khan pushed back, telling the Security Council: “When I went to Bucha, and went behind St. Andrew’s church, the bodies I saw were not fake.”
Ukraine’s representative at the meeting, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, urged “solidarity and unity” of UN member states to help Kyiv fight Russian aggression.
“The best way to prevent more Russian atrocities from happening is to provide Ukraine with more necessary weapons,” he told reporters.
Russia before the war forged closer ties with China. But the United States has welcomed what it sees as a cautious tone by China, which has not supplied significant military supplies to Moscow.
“The priority is for the parties to resume dialogue without preconditions,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the session.