The Russian president made the announcement in a national broadcast in Moscow, lashing out at the West and hinting that he was ready to use nuclear weapons to defend what he views as Russian territory. He also voiced his support for staged referendums being planned as a precursor to the annexation of occupied areas of Ukraine.
“In the face of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country, to protect Russia and our people, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal,” Putin warned. “This is not a bluff… I will emphasise this again – with all the means at our disposal.”
Biden told global leaders that the world should “see these outrageous acts for what they are” and branded Putin’s new nuclear threats against Europe as “reckless disregard” for Russia’s responsibilities as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“This is a war about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people. Wherever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold,” he said.
The war in Ukraine has all week dominated the UN General Assembly, with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky also set to address the forum via video link later this afternoon (Wednesday, US time).
But while COVID-19 has eased, the gathering of leaders in New York nonetheless takes place in the shadow of multiple crises, from food insecurity and environmental degradation, to record inflation and human rights abuses across the world.
Biden addressed some of these challenges in his speech, announcing $US2.9 billion in global food aid to tackle shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the effects of climate change.
He also called for reforms to strengthen the UN, such expanding the Security Council and refraining from using the veto “except in rare, extraordinary situations”. As a member, Russia holds veto power over any action the council tries to take over the invasion of Ukraine.
Shortly after his speech, the US president met with new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, who said on her way to New York that one of the key issues she wanted to discuss with Biden was global stability and making sure the UK and its allies could collectively deal with Russian aggression.
Earlier in day, another pressure point for the US emerged in the form of the Iran nuclear deal, which was brokered under the Obama administration and curbed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, which Tehran claims it has never received. With the agreement abandoned under Trump and still remains in limbo, Iran president Ebrahim Raisi told the General Assembly: “America trampled upon the nuclear accord.”
He also accused the West of hypocrisy on women’s rights – even as Iran faces a wave of protests following the death of woman held in police custody for what her family claims was a religious headscarf violation.
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