Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of becoming “a terrorist” state carrying out “daily terrorist acts” and urged Russia’s expulsion from the United Nations, in a virtual address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday.
Zelenskyy urged the UN to establish an international tribunal to investigate “the actions of Russian occupiers on Ukrainian soil” and to hold the country accountable.
“We need to act urgently to do everything to make Russia stop the killing spree,” Zelenskyy said, warning that otherwise Russia’s “terrorist activity” will spread to other European countries and Asia, singling out the Baltic states, Poland, Moldova and Kazakhstan.
“What is punished at the level of specific criminals and criminal organisations must not go unpunished at the level of a state that has become a terrorist,” he said. “Daily terrorist acts. No days off. They work as terrorists every day.”
In urging Russia's expulsion, Zelenskyy cited Article 6 of the UN Charter which states that a member which has "persistently violated" its principles may be expelled "by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council".
Such a move, however, is virtually impossible, as Russia would be able to use its veto as a permanent council member to block any attempt to oust it.
Ukraine called the council meeting after Russia’s recent upsurge in attacks including Monday’s airstrike on a crowded shopping centre n the central city of Kremenchuk.
At least 18 people were killed and and 30 wounded, Zelenskyy said, adding that "dozens are missing", body parts had been found and there may be more victims.
The Ukrainian leader began his speech listing Russia’s attacks in recent days and giving the first names and ages of many of the victims. He ended his address asking the 15 Security Council members and others in the chamber to stand in silent tribute to commemorate the “tens of thousands” of Ukrainian children and adults killed in the war.
All members rose including Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy.
When he took the floor later, Polyanskiy protested against giving Zelenskyy a second opportunity to address the Security Council. He said he forum should not be turned into "a platform for a remote PR campaign" aimed at getting "more weapons" from those taking part in the NATO summit, now underway in Madrid.
He repeated Moscow's unsubstantiated claim that there had been no Russian strike on the Kremenchuk shopping centre, but had hit a weapons storage facility. And he said the "special military operation" in Ukraine would continue.
Britain’s UN ambassador Barbara Woodward retorted that Russia “can try to claim that nothing is true and make outrageous claims of Ukrainian provocations” but the undeniable fact is that Russia invaded Ukraine.
“There is one aggressor here,” she said. “The evidence will catch up with them and there will be accountability for these crimes."
US deputy ambassador Richard Mills, like many other Western representatives, accused Russia of destroying the shopping centre, saying the attack “fits into a cruel pattern, one where the Russian military kills civilians and destroys civilian infrastructure in Ukraine”.
He stressed that there is ample publicly available evidence “that Russia, and Russia alone” is responsible for this and other attacks.
Ambassador Zhang Jun of China, a close ally of Russia, called the conflict “a geopolitical crisis” and urged the international community to work together to create conditions for Russian-Ukrainian peace talks and a ceasefire.