Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, calling on the organization to label Russia a terrorist state and send investigators to inspect a missile attack on a shopping mall the day before in the city from Kremenchuk.
The Security Council had convened an emergency session at Ukraine’s request to discuss the attack, which sparked a huge fire and killed 18 people and injured at least 30. Both numbers are expected to rise, because many people are still missing.
“Who among you disagrees that this is not terrorism? Mr Zelensky asked, speaking via video during his second appearance before the board since the dispute began. “The Russian state has become a terrorist.
He also said that Moscow had lost its right to be a permanent member of the Security Council and should also be deprived of any representation in the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr Zelensky read out the names of some of the war casualties, including a 3-month-old boy who he said was injured in a Russian attack and hospitalized in intensive care. He asked for a minute of silence to commemorate Ukraine’s dead. All council members, including the Russian delegation, rose and observed a minute of silence.
But then the Council returned to confrontational exchanges, the kind of exchanges that did not result in legally binding resolutions on Russia’s war on Ukraine.
A statement condemning the attack on the mall would require the approval of all 15 council members – and Russia and its allies there remain unlikely to sign. Lacking unity, the US and EU members, joined by Ukraine, issued their own statement and “strongly condemned the intensification of Russian missile strikes” on Ukrainian territory.
US Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Mills said the attack was part of Russia’s “cruel pattern” of targeting civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure. He said the evidence of war crimes was “mounting and could not be ignored”.
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, denied that Russia struck the mall and offered a different explanation for the damage, without presenting any evidence. He suggested that precision weapons had targeted a hangar near the mall that stored weapons delivered from the United States and Europe, and that the ensuing fire had simply spread to the mall.
Mr Polyanskiy also called his council counterparts “ridiculous” and “unconvincing” for “promoting Ukrainian propaganda”. He said Russia’s goal was to prevent Ukrainian forces from shelling the Donbass region.