Russia and US clash over West’s weapons for Ukraine
- Russia calls UN Security Council meeting to discuss threats to peace caused by foreign governments supplying arms to Ukraine
- UN meeting came as Ukraine claimed its troops had recaptured over 1,000 sq km of territory from Russia since start of September
Russia dismissed claims that modern Western weapons supplied to Ukraine can lead it to victory as “empty fantasies”, insisting that the Russian army is destroying Ukraine’s old and new weapons and will “finish” the war as President Vladimir Putin vowed.
The United States accused Russia of having “the gall to blame other countries for refusing to step aside as it seeks to destroy another UN member state”. The Biden administration said it is committed to supporting the Ukrainian people “as they defend their lives, their liberty, and their democracy”.
On Tuesday, the council held a meeting at Russia’s request to hear about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine where Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of shelling the facility and threatening a possible nuclear catastrophe.
On Wednesday, at the request of the US and Albania, the council discussed what the US said is the forcible deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, called Thursday’s meeting to discuss threats to peace caused by foreign governments supplying arms and military goods to Ukraine.
He told the council that the consequences of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his “entourage” saying that Western weapons and “so-called wonder warfare” will change the course of the six-month conflict and bring Ukraine victory is “very lamentable for Ukraine”.
“We are very far still from the end of this destructive process,” Nebenzia said. “Let me say immediately, however, that Western weaponry is not playing a decisive role on the battlefield regardless of what the Ukrainians and their vassals are saying.”
“The Russian army consistently, with minimal risk for its soldiers and civilians is destroying not only the old weaponry of Soviet models, which the Eastern European countries are discharging, but also the modern Nato weapons,” he said.
Nebenzia conceded that “several minor villages were taken” recently, leading to Western media claims of a Ukrainian counteroffensive, but he said most military experts agree that new weapons will not change the balance of forces “and will only extend the agony of the Zelensky regime”.
UN disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu, who briefed the council, said there have been “widespread and independently verified reports of the transfer of major conventional weapon systems to local armed groups in Ukraine, including artillery rocket systems”. She did not say where they came from, only raising general concerns about diversion.
Nebenzia claimed “a significant proportion” of Western weapons find their way into the hands of smugglers, and could end up in the hands of terrorists in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
US deputy ambassador Richard Mills called Thursday’s meeting “a transparent attempt” by Russia to distract from Wednesday’s meeting on the forced displacement of Ukrainians. He noted the UN assistant secretary general for human rights said her office had reports of torture “in conjunction with Russia’s abhorrent use of ‘filtration camps’”.
Mills said Russia’s claims that the US and the West are escalating and prolonging the war in Ukraine “are false”.
“They are cynical attempts to deflect attention from Moscow’s role as the sole aggressor in what is unnecessary and brutal war, for which the world is paying a collective price,” he said.
Mills asked all council members to consider what they would do if they were invaded by a bigger neighbour and what they would seek from the international community.
“None of us here would simply let our country’s history and identity be attacked, our cities shelled to rubble, our people killed, our territory taken,” he said. “We would appeal for international support in the face of such naked aggression.”
Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya recalled that former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that Hitler would not have been defeated without US help and today Ukraine and the US and its other allies “are doing their best to ensure such a response” against Russia.
“The liberation of Ukrainian territories that is well on the way in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions serves as the best proof of the effectiveness of our efforts,” he said. “We will fight against the occupiers until all the Russian soldiers who entered Ukraine to kill these people are defeated.”
The UN meeting came as Ukraine hailed a lightning counteroffensive it said had recaptured swathes of its territory in the east and south.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Thursday that Ukrainian forces had “liberated dozens of settlements” and reclaimed 1,000 sq km (385 square miles) of territory in the east and south since September 1.
Zelensky also posted a video in which Ukrainian soldiers said they had captured the eastern town of Balakliya near Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine. Video posted to a Ukrainian news aggregator appeared to show the Russians had left behind trucks, artillery and ammunition.
Vitaly Ganchev, a pro-Russian official, told Russian state television that Russian forces had fought off a Ukrainian attempt to encircle and capture Balakliya, which he said remained in Russian hands.
Additional reporting by Reuters