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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called the six-month anniversary of the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine a “sad and tragic milestone.” headlines
Guterres made the comments during a special meeting of the UN Security Council in New York to mark the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor on February 24.
The UN chief described the six months of conflict as “devastating,” adding that he remained “gravely concerned” about military activity around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, Europe’s largest atomic power plant.
“The warning lights are flashing,” he said.
“Any further escalation of the situation could lead to self-destruction. The security of the plant must be ensured, and the plant must be re-established as purely civilian infrastructure,” he added.
The plant is occupied by Russian troops and threatened by shelling, which Moscow blames on Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, addressing the meeting via video link, told the UN that Russia “should unconditionally stop nuclear blackmail” and “completely withdraw” from the plant.
“Europe and neighboring regions face the threat of the radiation pollution. This is a fact,” Zelensky told the session, which had been requested by the United States, France and Britain.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, objected to Zelensky being allowed to speak.
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He said he was not opposed to the Ukrainian leader’s participation, but to the fact that he was not attending in person.
The 15-member council voted 13 to one in favor of allowing Zelensky to speak, with China abstaining.
After the meeting, some 50 countries, including the United States, Japan, Britain and France released a joint statement repeating their demand for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
During the session, Nebenzia denounced “mantras about Russian aggression.”
“No one is arguing that it is difficult for Ukrainians today,” he said.
“However, responsibility for this lies with the Kiev regime… (which) has been steadily leading the country to disaster, choosing the path of Russophobia and the glorification of Nazi criminals,” Nebenzia added.
Guterres — back from a recent trip to Ukraine and Turkey that focused on grain exports, which have resumed following an agreement in July — warned of the continuing threat to food and fuel security.
“The consequences of this senseless war are being felt far beyond Ukraine,” he said.
“If we don’t stabilize the fertilizer market in 2022, there simply will not be enough food in 2023,” the secretary-general warned.
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