U.S. President Joe Biden harshly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, telling the United Nations General Assembly that the unprovoked war directly violated the organization’s charter, and warning of escalating nuclear threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Let us speak plainly: A permanent member of the United Nations Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase the sovereign state from the map,” Biden said in a speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York City. “Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the United Nations’ charter, no more important than the clear prohibition against countries taking the territory of their neighbor by force.”
Biden’s remarks come as Europe faces its biggest crisis since World War II as nations grapple with how to deter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s the first time in three years the U.N. General Assembly has allowed in-person sessions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Putin’s own words make his true purpose unmistakable: Just before he invaded, Putin asserted, and I quote, ‘Ukraine was created by Russia’ and never had ‘real statehood,'” Biden said. “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple.”
Putin announced a partial military mobilization in Russia early Wednesday morning in prerecorded televised remarks. He did not provide many details in his speech as to what a partial military mobilization would entail, but it could mean that Russian businesses and citizens have to contribute more to the war effort. The country has not yet declared war on Ukraine, despite having invaded in February, an invasion it still calls “a special military operation.”
Putin did however threaten to use nuclear weapons in his morning address, which Biden strongly rebuked.
“No matter what else is happening in the world, the United States is ready to pursue critical arms control measures. A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” Biden said. “Russia’s shun of the nonproliferation ideals embraced by every other nation at the Tenth NPT Review Conference, and again today as I said, they’re making irresponsible threats to use nuclear weapons.”
A senior White House official told NBC News a line was added to Biden’s remarks in response to Putin’s address.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres uttered a similar sentiment in his opening remarks to the body on Tuesday, saying the “world is in peril and paralyzed,” citing poverty, climate change and war.
“The United Nations charter and the ideals it represents are in jeopardy and we have a duty to act,” Guterres said Tuesday.