Russia's top ambassador left a United Nations Security Council meeting as the United States and its allies intensified their criticism of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and accused Moscow of breaking international law.
On Thursday (US time), less than two days after Putin announced the largest conscription since World War II, Russian and Western officials battled at the United Nations over alleged war crimes committed by Moscow.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, arrived late at the Security Council meeting, delivered his remarks, and then left shortly thereafter.
He further alleged that Ukraine and its allies were attempting to "impose on us a completely different narrative about Russian aggression"
James Cleverly, the British foreign secretary, observed Lavrov's abrupt departure from the meeting as he was accusing Moscow of "distortions, dishonesty, and disinformation" in the middle of his speech.
Cleverly remarked, "He has left the chamber" after he observed that the minister had left the room. "I'm not shocked. I don't believe Mr. Lavrov wants to hear the council's unified criticism."
Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba was more sarcastic. Kuleba subsequently said of Lavrov's departure, in a clear reference to Russia's recent battlefield withdrawal in the country's north, "I observe that Russian diplomats flee almost as quickly as Russian soldiers."
Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China was also present, but he adopted a far more nuanced tone towards China's ally.
While "all efforts that could assist in resolving the crisis should be supported," he stated that "investigations into violations of international humanitarian law should be objective and fair, based on fair facts rather than an assumption of guilt, and without being politicized."
At least the twentieth time this year that the Security Council has met to discuss Ukraine, it has been unable to take serious action due to Russia's permanent membership and veto power.
Moments before, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had delivered a speech asking the Russian strongman not to invade Ukraine. On February 24, Putin went on national television at 6:00 a.m. Moscow time and announced he would be invading Ukraine.
In his early-morning national address on Wednesday in Moscow, Putin announced a partial military mobilization to mobilize up to 300,000 reservists and threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory.
The proposal has sparked outraged protests in Russia, a mass exodus of potential conscripts, and widespread condemnation from foreign leaders.
"The fact that President Putin chose this week, when the vast majority of the world is gathered at the United Nations, to add fuel to the fire he started demonstrates his utter contempt and disdain for the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly, and this council," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who urged the council to tell Putin to "stop the horror he started."
He stated that Russia's retreat from the Ukrainian cities of Izium and Bucha showed indisputable mass atrocities. Prosecutors are currently investigating the deaths to identify the offenders and ultimately prosecute them for war crimes.
"If Russia ceases hostilities, the war will end. If Ukraine quits fighting, Ukraine ends," Blinken remarked.
Putin strongly alluded to the potential use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, prompting Blinken to encourage other governments to remind Russia to cease its nuclear threats.
Putin stated that his nuclear-armed nation would "use all available means" to protect its territory if it were endangered.
Blinken viewed Putin's remark as especially threatening in light of the upcoming referendums in Russian-controlled areas of eastern and southern Ukraine on whether to join Russia.
These ballots have been criticized by Western governments as invalid and nonbinding. Blinken warned that in their wake, Moscow may view any Ukrainian move to recapture these territories as an invasion of "Russian territory."
Blinken's warning comes as the Washington Post reveals that the United States has been sending private signals to Moscow for several months, threatening severe repercussions should Putin employ nuclear weapons.
Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan informed the council that there were "reasonable grounds" to suspect that crimes under the court's jurisdiction had been committed in Ukraine. This court is responsible for war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.
Before the meeting of the Security Council, Ukraine's foreign minister Kuleba reiterated calls for the establishment of a special tribunal to try Russia for "aggression crimes." France convened the summit to address accountability for alleged violations and atrocities in Ukraine.
"Unfortunately, the International Criminal Court is unable to do so for legal reasons," Kubela stated.
"However, aggression is a crime that must not go unpunished, and we will cooperate constructively with all nations who are willing to combat impunity and stand up to the scale of international crimes. Nothing will impede our progress."