In unusual move, Ukrainian president Zelensky joined via video link
Russia does not target civilians in Ukraine and did not strike the shopping center in Kremenchug, Moscow's envoy to the UN told the Security Council on Tuesday. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said that the mall caught fire due to an explosion of Western-supplied weapons and ammunition, stored at the nearby factory and intended for the shelling of civilians in Donbass, making it a legitimate military target.
He also criticized the UNSC for breaching protocol and allowing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the council via video-link, after refusing such a request from the Central African Republic.
"In reality, there was no strike on the mall," Polyanskiy told the council, as Russia targeted a storage facility at the Kredmash factory next door. The weapons and ammunition stored there were bound for the front, where Ukrainian artillery was bombarding the civilians of Donbass as it had for years, to no objection from the UN, he added. "The Russian strike stopped that."
Polyanskiy pointed out that Ukrainian media clearly showed images of intact merchandise inside the 'Amstor' shopping center, and windows of nearby residential buildings that had not shattered. The fire was caused by explosions of the Western-supplied ammunition at Kredmash, he said.
Moscow's envoy accused Ukraine of waging a propaganda war, using fakes and lies such as "Snake Island 13" or the "Ghost of Kiev" to campaign for more weapons and financial aid from the West. Actual testimonials of civilians from Donbass show they blame only the Ukrainian military, which deploys around residential homes and uses civilians as human shields, Polyanskiy argued.
Tuesday's session was convened by Albania, a NATO member state which also chairs the UNSC through the end of June. The proximate cause was Monday's incident in Kremenchug, where Kiev claims a Russian missile struck a peaceful shopping center - though even the Ukrainian media admitted the destruction of the industrial facility next door.
It was opened by Rosemary DiCarlo, a US diplomat currently serving as UN under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs. She said that entire cities in Ukraine were being "leveled" by the Russian military and described Monday's incident in Kremenchug as "one of the most shocking attacks of the conflict."
The keynote speaker, however, was Zelensky. Appearing via video-link - in what Polyanskiy objected to as breach of protocol - the Ukrainian president once again demanded the UN declare Russia a "terrorist state," expel it from the Security Council and the General Assembly, and set up an international tribunal just like for the Rwandan genocide.
"Deprive the terrorist state of its powers!" he told the council.
Zelensky accused Russia of waging a "full-scale war of conquest" against Ukraine and being a "terrorist and enemy of humanity." Russia only has a permanent seat in the UNSC due to "shortsightedness" of the West at the end of the Cold War, he insisted, and ought to be expelled from the UN outright.
Representatives of Poland, Estonia and the UK voiced support for Zelensky and Ukraine. Polyanskiy insisted that Russia launched its military operation to prevent Ukraine from becoming an anti-Russian weapon in the hands of the West.
"Until these goals are achieved, our operation will continue," the Russian envoy concluded.