UKRAINE: President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that a special United Nations tribunal be set up to impose “just punishment” on Russia for its “special military operation” against Ukraine, including financial penalties and stripping Moscow of its omnipotent veto power in the Security Council.
On Wednesday, Zelensky’s recorded message to other world leaders at the UN General Assembly came after Russian president Putin ordered Moscow’s first wartime mobilization since World War II and threatened to use his nuclear arsenal to defend Russia in what he has cast as a defining East-West clash.
As per Putin’s reorganization of troops, Moscow plans to conscript 300,000 men in an apparent escalation of the war with Ukraine that began on February 24 and has left thousands dead, cities reduced to rubble, displaced millions and debilitated the rest of Europe with an awful energy crisis.
Russia’s mobilization may be what political pundits and experts call the riskiest domestic political move of Putin’s two undisputed decades in power and followed months of Kremlin promises that it would do no such thing.
The decision comes at a time when Russia has been struck astoundingly by the intense severity of harsh counter-offensive measures launched by Ukraine in the past few weeks.
Putin’s troop mobilization agenda saw several flights out of Russia sell out rapidly and gave impetus to jailed Opposition leader Alexei Navalny to call for mass demonstrations against the whole ordeal.
By Wednesday evening, 38 Russian localities had detained roughly 1,400 protesters, according to independent protest monitoring organisation OVD-Info.
Zelensky asserted that there were five non-negotiable requirements for peace in his clearly stated language. The restoration of Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity as well as security assurances were among them.
“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” Zelensky told the UN body.
Many delegates present at the international meeting were moved enough to deliver a standing ovation at the end of his speech.
Putin ordered the military draft in a televised address in which he also announced moves to annex four Ukrainian provinces and threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, declaring: “It’s not a bluff”.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly, US President Joe Biden responded: “Again, just today, President Putin has made overt nuclear threats against Europe, in a reckless disregard for the responsibilities of the non-proliferation regime.”
His Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, also condemned Putin’s bold threats of nuclear opposition, saying they represent an “irresponsible escalation of the war”.
“Putin’s behaviour only goes to show that his invasion is failing,” he added.
The foreign ministers of the European Union decided on Wednesday to prepare for additional sanctions against Russia and to enhance the flow of arms to Kiev.
“It’s clear that Putin is trying to destroy Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters after ministers met to decide how to respond.
According to Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies confirmed their collaboration in extending support for Ukraine during a meeting in New York on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Russia and Ukraine engaged in an unexpected prisoner swap on Wednesday, the largest since the war began, involving about 300 people, including ten foreigners and the commanders who led a prolonged Ukrainian defence of Mariupol earlier this year.
Two Britons and a Moroccan who had received a death sentence in June after being captured fighting for Ukraine were among the foreigners freed.
According to a Saudi ministry, three further Britons, two Americans, a Croatian, and a Swedish citizen were also released as part of the settlement mediated by Saudi Arabia.
Top military officers were among the captured Ukrainians, who were taken prisoner after a protracted fight for the port city of Mariupol earlier this year, according to Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelensky’s office.
Since Putin called for a rapid troop mobilization, some suggest an escalation of the conflict; it has thrown off Russians. Ordinary, working-class Russian men with mouths to feed and bills to pay are now worried about their future, as they loathe the idea of going off to fight a mindless war.
On the Moscow metro, men could be seen studying call-up papers.
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