United Nations’ António Guterres hits back at Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats as Russian minister storms out of meeting
Russian President Vladimir Putin was summoned to a United Nations general assembly overnight following his new nuclear threats this week.
In a televised address, he accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” and repeated suggestions that Western nations wanted to “weaken and destroy” his country.
The dictator also ordered a partial military mobilization, the first since World War II, which has led to thousands of Russians fleeing across the border fearing they will be forced to fight in the Ukrainian war now in its seventh month.
“If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we use all available means to protect our people – this is not bluffing,” President Putin said on Thursday.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called Moscow’s threats ‘completely unacceptable’ and warned it would be a ‘violation of the UN charter and international law’ if it annexed parts of Ukraine .
President Putin has given the go-ahead for referendums to be held in four Ukrainian regions in hopes of being able to claim they pose a threat to Russia and then resume them.
“The idea of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, has become a matter of debate. That in itself is completely unacceptable,” Guterres said in New York.
“I am also deeply concerned about reports of plans to hold so-called referendums in parts of Ukraine that are currently not under government control.
“Any annexation of the territory of a State by another State resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law.”
He also feared a food crisis in 2023 due to falling fertilizer and ammonia exports from Russia.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was present at the meeting, accused Ukraine and the West of “impunity” in the war-torn Donbass region.
He also alleged that the majority Russian-speaking population was deprived of their basic rights – which is one of the reasons given for his invasion in February.
“People have been denied their pensions, grants, access to education and basic civil rights,” he said in his speech while ignoring previous comments from Mr Guterres.
He also suggested that Ukraine’s allies, such as Germany, France and the United States, were trying to “impose a completely different narrative on us about Russian aggression.”
Mr. Lavrov arrived about 90 minutes late for the meeting and did not hear some of the condemnation of Russia by other world representatives.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier told UN members he needed to send a “clear message” to Moscow amid its continued threats.
“Every member of the council must send a clear message that these irresponsible nuclear threats must stop immediately,” he said in his remarks.
While President Putin has been widely condemned for his latest move, no one in the council is likely to act, as Russia is one of five nations with veto power, meaning it can say no or stop official action.