Russia 'shamelessly violated' UN Charter with Ukraine war, Biden says

US president says America 'will not allow' Iran to get a nuclear weapon

US President Joe Biden addresses the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York. AFP
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US President Joe Biden used his annual address to the UN General Assembly to take aim at Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and to call for sweeping reforms at the Security Council.

Russia has “shamelessly violated” the core tenets of the UN Charter with its “brutal, needless war” in Ukraine, Mr Biden told the 193-member General Assembly on Wednesday, as he assailed Moscow for the conflict, which has forced about 14 million Ukrainians to flee their homes.

“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state and Ukrainians’ right to exist as a people,” Mr Biden said.

“Wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold. ”

The US leader spoke a day after France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Olaf Scholz decried Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, both accusing him of “imperialism".

Mr Biden also voiced frustration over the current format of the UN Security Council, where five permanent members including Russia have veto power, and said more nations should be allowed to sit as permanent members.

"We have long supported permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean," he said.

The president also urged members to avoid using veto votes "to ensure the council remains credible and effective".

On Wednesday, Mr Putin mobilised army reserves and renewed nuclear threats against neighbouring Ukraine. He has not attended the UN General Assembly since 2015, the year he sent military aircraft into Syria.

Mr Biden also blasted Russia for scheduling “sham referenda” this week in territory it has forcibly seized in Ukraine.

“A permanent member of the UN Security Council invaded its neighbour, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the UN charter,” he said.

The president also addressed global food shortages caused by the conflict, stating that "if parents cannot feed their children, nothing else matters".

Mr Biden has spent much of the past seven months marshalling western leaders and Nato allies in support of Ukraine. Since January 2021, the US has given Kyiv more than $13.5 billion in military aid.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres was quick to address the war in his opening remarks to the General Assembly, where the European conflict has been the focus of many leaders' speeches.

“Much of the world’s attention remains focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

“The war has unleashed widespread destruction with massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to deliver a recorded speech on Wednesday afternoon.

While the bulk of Mr Biden's speech focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he lay out his vision for the year ahead, making clear where the US stood on a host of issues including climate change and it's support for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

"We will continue to advocate for lasting negotiated peace between the Jewish and democratic state of Israel and the Palestinian people," he said.

The US president spoke one hour after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gave a rambling address to the General Assembly, in which he accused the West of having double standards when it comes to human rights and pointedly said the US had "trampled" on the 2015 nuclear deal.

Mr Biden, who once again made clear that he would not allow Iran to "acquire nuclear weapons", expressed support for demonstrators in Iran, who have been protesting in the streets since the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died while in the custody of the morality police.

He touched on the devastating floods that hit Pakistan earlier this month, which have displaced more than 30 million people.

"We all know we're already living in a climate crisis," he said. "No one seems to doubt it after this past year."

Ukraine war latest — in pictures

Updated: September 21, 2022, 6:40 PM