Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Russia a “terrorist state” on Tuesday and urged the United Nations to send a commission to investigate a deadly missile strike on a shopping mall in the city of Kremenchuk.
“Who of you does not agree this is terrorism?” The Ukrainian leader asked in remarks beamed into the U.N. Security Council chamber in New York of Monday’s strike on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 civilians, and other Russian attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in recent days.
Zelenskyy said in any other part of the world, any group that killed civilians the way Russia is doing in Ukraine would be considered terrorists.
“Therefore, what is punished at the level of criminals and criminal organizations must not go unchecked at the level of the state, which has become a terrorist,” he said of the Kremlin.
Zelenskyy listed several new Russian attacks carried out Tuesday, just hours before his address. At least eight civilians were killed in strikes on the southern port city of Mykolaiv and the northeastern reaches near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. Among those killed was a 6-year-old girl. Dozens were injured, including a 3-month-old baby who was in a coma.
Moscow’s Security Council envoy protested the Ukrainian president being allowed to address the council, saying Zelenskyy’s appearance was last-minute and arranged without consulting all council members.
Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said Zelenskyy’s address was intended to win sympathy and weapons from attendees at the NATO summit commencing in Madrid.
Polyanskiy also dismissed allegations that the shopping center in Kremenchuk had been hit, saying it was not near Russia’s target.
“In reality, there was no strike on the shopping center,” Polyanskiy declared. “The Russian armed forces used precision weapons to strike hangars with Western weapons and ammunition received from the United States and European countries in the area of Kremenchuk road machinery plant.”
NATO impasse overcome
Earlier Tuesday, Turkey lifted its objections to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. The three nations signed a memorandum in Madrid at the start of the NATO summit, confirming Ankara’s support.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted confirmation of the agreement.
Turkey had threatened to veto the two Nordic states’ bids to join the Atlantic alliance over what Ankara sees as their support for Syrian Kurdish fighters of the PKK-linked YPG group. Ankara considers the PKK a terrorist organization.
Finland and Sweden support the YPG, as do some NATO members, including the United States, in the war against Islamic State.
“Finland has constantly taken these concerns seriously,” President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement. “Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. As a NATO member, Finland will commit fully to the counterterrorism documents and policies of NATO.”
The war in Ukraine is expected to be among the major topics at the summit.
“At our NATO summit, we will step up support for our close partner Ukraine now and for the longer term,” Stoltenberg declared.
“NATO allies stand with you,” Stoltenberg said after talking with Zelenskyy.
In talks with the NATO secretary-general ahead of the summit, Zelenskyy stressed the need for a “powerful missile defense system for Ukraine to prevent Russian terrorist attacks.”
Stoltenberg said Monday that the Western military alliance is declaring a sevenfold increase in the number of its troops on standby alert — from 40,000 to more than 300,000.
Russia’s stepped-up attacks came as the United States again ramped up sanctions against Moscow’s defense entities and individuals carrying out President Vladimir Putin’s war, now in its fifth month.
The U.S. State and Treasury departments imposed sanctions on Russia’s largest defense conglomerate, the state corporation Rostec, and dozens of Russia’s defense industry-based entities. The U.S. agencies also sanctioned an individual in Ukraine they said was illegitimately installed as a mayor by Russia, as well as 19 Rostec board members and nine of their adult family members.
Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized economies concluded a meeting Tuesday in Germany by expressing support for Ukraine and pledging to “continue to impose severe and immediate economic costs on President Putin’s regime for its unjustifiable war of aggression against Ukraine.”
The statement said the G-7 countries would boost their efforts to address the wider impact of the war, including on global energy and food supplies.
The leaders also said they will consider ways to bar services “which enable transportation of Russian seaborne crude oil and petroleum products globally, unless the oil is purchased at or below a price to be agreed in consultation with international partners.”
They said such a plan would allow the most vulnerable countries to maintain access to Russian energy markets.
In addition to efforts to reduce dependence on Russian energy supplies, rounds of sanctions already enacted have targeted Russian energy exports to both pressure Putin to end the war and to try to hamper Russia’s ability to fund its war effort.
VOA: some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.