Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations has denounced Russia as a “terrorist state” during an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly that came just hours after Ukrainian cities were struck by a wave of deadly missile strikes.
“Russia has proven once again that it is a terrorist state that must be deterred in the strongest possible ways,” said Ambassador Serhiy Kyslytsya.
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The UN had scheduled the October 10 meeting to discuss a draft resolution condemning Russia’s recent annexation of four Ukrainian territories, a violation of international law.
But the session was soon dominated by Western condemnation of Russia’s decision to launch more than 80 missiles at Ukrainian cities in retaliation for what Moscow has called Kyiv’s “terrorist” actions, including a blast that damaged a key route for delivering supplies and reinforcements to Russian forces fighting in southern Ukraine.
The early morning strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and urban residential areas hit major cities across the country, including Kyiv, killing at least 14 people and injuring 97, according to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.
They were the most punishing attacks launched by Russian forces in months and were seen as a major escalation of the war launched by Moscow in February.
Ahead of the UN meeting, US President Joe Biden said the strikes demonstrated the “utter brutality” of the war initiated unprovoked by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The United States strongly condemns Russia’s missile strikes today across Ukraine, including in Kyiv. These attacks killed and injured civilians and destroyed targets with no military purpose. They once again demonstrate the utter brutality of Mr. Putin’s illegal war on the Ukrainian people,” Biden said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the strikes as an “unacceptable escalation of the war” by Russia.
WATCH: Ukraine has reported dozens of missile strikes across its territory, including the capital, Kyiv, in a significant escalation of Russian attacks.
A spokesman for Guterres said in a statement ahead of the emergency UN meeting that the secretary-general was “deeply shocked by today’s large-scale missile attacks by the armed forces of the Russian Federation on cities across Ukraine that reportedly resulted in widespread damage to civilians areas and led to dozens of people being killed and injured.”
The 193-member UN General Assembly decided on October 10 to hold a public vote, rather than a secret ballot, on a draft resolution that would condemn Russia’s “illegal so-called referenda” held in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya regions, as well as Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of the territories.
Diplomats said the vote on the resolution would likely be held on October 12. The majority of countries, 107, voted in favor of holding a public vote, while 13 countries opposed, 39 abstained, and the remainder did not vote.
Russia vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member Security Council in September.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a video call with members of Russia’s Security Council, said the October 10 strikes were retaliation for what he called Kyiv’s “terrorist” actions, including the October 8 blast that damaged the Crimea Bridge, a key rail and highway route for supplies and reinforcements for Russian forces fighting in southern Ukraine.
Putin said more such Russian strikes could be expected.
“Let there be no doubt,” Putin said. “If attempts at terrorist attacks continue, the response from Russia will be severe.”
Earlier, former Russian President and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the strikes on Kyiv and other major cities were only “the first response” to the explosion on the Crimea Bridge that left a column of train cars burning and sent one section of the highway into the Kerch Strait.
Russia has said that the suspected truck bombing was an act of terrorism carried out by the Ukrainian special services. Ukraine has not taken credit for the incident.
Following Biden’s comments, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blamed the United States for holding up possible negotiations to end the war, which Moscow officially calls a “special military operation.”
“We repeat once again especially for the American side: The tasks that we set in Ukraine will be solved,” Zakharova wrote on the ministry’s website.
“Russia is open for diplomacy and the conditions are well known. The longer Washington encourages Kyiv’s bellicose mood and encourages rather than hinders the terrorist undertakings of Ukrainian saboteurs, the more difficult will be the search for diplomatic solutions.”
Kyiv, which has retaken large swaths of Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine’s south and east in recent weeks, has ruled out negotiations with Putin, saying that Russia is making unacceptable demands and that Putin’s actions have made talks impossible.
Ukraine was left reeling by the early morning strikes on October 10.
While Putin said his forces had launched “precision weapons” from the air, sea, and ground to target key energy and military command facilities in Ukraine, the strikes hit residential areas and critical infrastructure facilities alike.
Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said on the Telegram messaging app that four cities — Lviv, Poltava, Sumy, and Ternopil — had no electricity following the attacks and that electricity supplies had been partially disrupted in other parts of the country. In the east, passenger rail service was cut off between Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and Izyum — a city that was taken shortly after Russia’s unprovoked invasion in February but which Kyiv recently retook in a major counteroffensive.
Several explosions rocked the center of the capital, Kyiv, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message filmed outside his presidential office that Russia had intentionally targeted the country’s energy infrastructure and timed the strikes to inflict the greatest number of human losses.
In his nightly evening address to the nation on October 10, Zelensky said from a damaged civilian area near a Kyiv university that “Ukraine cannot be intimidated. We are united even more instead.”
International reaction to the October 10 missile strikes was swift, with the United States, the European Union, and NATO condemning the strikes and the Group of Seven announcing it would hold emergency talks on October 11 that would be preceded by an address by Zelensky.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that he had spoken with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to “reiterate US support for Ukraine following the Kremlin’s horrific strikes.” Blinken said the United States would continue to provide “unwavering economic, humanitarian, and security assistance so Ukraine can defend itself and take care of its people.”
Earlier, EU Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell also spoke with Kuleba after the attacks, which Borrell “condemned in the strongest possible terms.” The EU’s top diplomat also expressed his condolences for those who died in the strike and said those responsible would be held accountable.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in a tweet after speaking with Kuleba that he “condemned Russia’s horrific and indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.”
Ukrainian President Zelensky said in his morning video address that the strikes were an act of terrorism.
“This morning is difficult. We are dealing with terrorists,” Zelensky said, noting the Russian military’s use of Iranian drones to carry out the strikes.
“They are trying to destroy us and wipe us off the face of the earth…destroy our people who are sleeping at home,” Zelensky said.
Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny said on Twitter that Russia used drones to launch a total of 75 rockets on Ukraine, more than half of which he claimed were destroyed by Ukrainian air defenses.
With reporting by dpa, AP, and Reuters