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Insults, accusations and talk of war crimes and nuclear holocaust dominated the world’s premier diplomatic stage on Thursday, as the United Nations Security Council met to debate how and whether anyone would be held accountable for the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov called Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, a “bastard,” but was not around long enough to hear what many of his counterparts had to say. After arriving 90 minutes late to the meeting — and missing the briefings given by António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, and Karim Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court — Mr. Lavrov left early.
The U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, denounced President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for saying on Wednesday that he could use all arms available to him in the war, interpreted by officials in both Russia and the West as a veiled reference to nuclear weapons.
“Every council member should send a clear message that these reckless nuclear threats must stop immediately,” Mr. Blinken told the Security Council, in some of his sharpest comments since the war began. “Tell President Putin to stop the horror he started.”
“One man chose this war. One man can end it,” he added. “Because if Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.”
It was the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine in February that Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Blinken, as well as the top diplomats of some key U.S. allies, were in the same room together.
The meeting, coinciding with the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering, was called to discuss allegations of war crimes and human rights abuses by Russian forces. But Mr. Lavrov, like Mr. Putin and other Kremlin officials, tried to flip the narrative, casting Russia as the aggrieved party.
Mr. Lavrov said Ukraine had launched “an assault” on the Russian language and trampled on the rights of ethnic Russians in the Donbas region that Russia now mostly controls. He said the goal of countries supplying weapons to Ukraine was to prolong the conflict and “to wear down and weaken Russia.”
“That policy means the direct involvement of the West in the conflict,” he said.
Mr. Lavrov was not in the room when Dmytro Kuleba, foreign minister of Ukraine, called for a special tribunal to hold Russia’s leaders accountable for the crime of aggression against his country.
“There will be no peace without justice,” Mr. Kuleba said. “None of the crimes of Russia in Ukraine would be possible without the crime of aggression.”
He described Mr. Putin’s announcement this week that Russia would call up some 300,000 reservists to active duty an admission of defeat.
In March the International Criminal Court formally opened an investigation into allegations of Russian crimes against humanity in Ukraine, and it has dispatched teams of investigators to gather evidence there. Mr. Khan said a team would travel to eastern Ukraine to investigate newer accusations.
The foreign ministers representing the 15 Security Council members all called for accountability for abuses in Ukraine, though their tones depended on whether their governments have taken sides or tried to remain neutral.
China, aligned with Russia and a permanent Council member, has not publicly condemned the invasion but has signaled reservations about it. Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, called for investigations that would not be “politicized” and be “objective and fair, based on fair facts, rather than an assumption of guilt.”