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President Zelenskyy asks the UN Security Council to take action to stop the war


Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an impassioned appeal to the United Nations Security Council today, asking it to take action now to stop the war in Ukraine. He described in graphic detail the images that have emerged from the suburbs of Kyiv in recent days and accused Russian troops of committing atrocities, quote, "just for their pleasure." For more, we turn now to NPR's international affairs correspondent Jackie Northam. Hey, Jackie.


DETROW: So what struck you about President Zelenskyy's address to the Security Council?

NORTHAM: It was very emotional. Zelenskyy was in Bucha and some of the other suburbs yesterday. And he shared with the Security Council what he witnessed. And just a warning - you know, this kind of violence is hard to hear about. But he talked about entire families being killed and mass graves and, you know, the bodies of unarmed civilians, their hands bound behind their backs on the streets of Bucha. And he played a video showing these things. You know, it was short, about a minute long, but very powerful. And, you know, Zelenskyy accused Russia's military of committing atrocities. And he said the devastation by the Russian military went far beyond just killing civilians. And here he is speaking through a translator.


PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) They are deliberately blocking city, creating mass starvation. They deliberately shoot columns of civilians on the road trying to escape from the territory of hostilities. They even deliberately blow up shelters where civilians hide from air strikes.

NORTHAM: And, Scott, Zelenskyy almost scolded the Security Council, saying it was not doing nearly enough to stop the war. And he questioned its effectiveness if it can't find a way to hold Russia accountable.

DETROW: Yeah. This idea of somehow holding Russia accountable for war crimes is something that the Biden administration has been pushing for lately. Did we hear more about that from the Security Council today?

NORTHAM: Oh, sure. There were calls from several countries that Russia should be investigated for war crimes. And the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield - she also reiterated earlier calls that Russia should be kicked off the U.N. Human Rights Council, that it should not be part of an entity, you know, that's set up to promote respect for human rights. And here she is speaking.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Not only is this the height of hypocrisy. It is dangerous. Russia is using its membership on the Human Rights Council as a platform for propaganda to suggest Russia has a legitimate concern for human rights.

NORTHAM: But, you know, the U.N. is incredibly bureaucratic, and there is no sign so far of Russia getting kicked off the Human Rights Council.

DETROW: And Russia is, of course, a permanent member of the Security Council. So I'm wondering, how did Russia's ambassador to the U.N. respond to Zelenskyy's address?

NORTHAM: Well, the Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya - he disputed Zelenskyy's claims. He said not one civilian was hurt or killed while the Russian military controlled Bucha and that the video Zelenskyy showed had been adulterated and that, you know, the bodies that were shown were killed actually by Ukrainians and not Russians. And here he is speaking now.


VASILY NEBENZYA: (Through interpreter) I understand that you saw corpses and heard testimonials, but you only saw what they showed you. You couldn't ignore the flagrant inconsistencies in the version of events which are being promoted by Ukrainian and Western media.

NORTHAM: And, you know, Scott, Nebenzya had said yesterday that he would produce empirical evidence to the Security Council that Russian forces had not been killing civilians in Ukraine. But, you know, he didn't present any of that evidence today.

DETROW: In the time we've got left, anything new on more sanctions from Western countries directed to Russia?

NORTHAM: Yes. The U.S., European Union, allies are continuing to tighten the screws. U.S. is now prohibiting Russia from withdrawing funds from American banks to pay its debt obligations. They'd be pushing Russia closer to default. And there are more sanctions, you know, in the works as well against Russian individuals and companies. So there's still a lot going on as far as sanctions are concerned.

DETROW: That's NPR's Jackie Northam. Thanks so much.

NORTHAM: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.