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UN assembly meets hours after Russian strikes over Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS — The UN General Assembly on Monday began debating whether Russia should demand that Russia reverse course on its annexation of four regions of Ukraine — a discussion that came as Moscow’s most extensive missile strikes in months hit much of the population. alarmed the international community again.

The meeting, scheduled before Monday’s barrage, was intended to respond to Russia’s alleged absorption of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions last month. The move followed Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” that the Ukrainian government and the West have dismissed as illegal.

But countries took the opportunity to speak out about Monday morning’s rush-hour attacks that hit at least 14 Ukrainian regions, including the capital Kiev, and killed at least 14 people. Russia said it was targeting military and energy facilities. But some of the rockets hit civilian areas.

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergey Kyslytsya told the meeting that some of his own close relatives were in danger and unable to take cover in a bomb shelter.

“The whole world has once again seen the true face of the terrorist state that is killing our people,” he said as the debate began. Russia was not yet ready to speak.

Earlier Monday, Russia said it was retaliating for what it called a Ukrainian “terrorist” attack on a key bridge on Saturday. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak called the bridging charge “too cynical even for Russia”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres was “deeply shocked” by the Russian attacks and spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said.

Hours later, the UN assembly met to consider a proposed resolution condemning the “referendums” and declaring annexations illegal.

The European Union-led move would also demand that Moscow “immediately and unconditionally” cancel its alleged annexations, call on all countries not to recognize them and urge the immediate, full and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from the internationally recognized territory of Ukraine. .

A vote is expected later this week. Russia wanted secret ballot, an unusual move that the meeting rejected, 107-13, with 39 abstentions.

Russia recently vetoed a similar but legally binding UN Security Council resolution that would have condemned the alleged annexations. Following a decision taken earlier this year, the Security Council’s vetoes must now be explained in the General Assembly.

The Assembly does not allow vetoes and its resolutions are not legally binding. During the war, the assembly voted to demand Russia’s withdrawal, blame Moscow for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

Meanwhile, there is a stalemate in the Security Council, where Russia is one of five countries with veto power.

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