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Ukraine's Zelensky demands 'just punishment' for Russian crimes

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky told the UN General Assembly Wednesday that Ukraine wants peace and justice, laying out a set of five non-negotiable conditions for an end to the war. Read about the day's events as they unfolded on our liveblog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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European Union ministers agreed to push ahead with new sanctions targeting Russia at an informal meeting on Wednesday, the bloc's foreign policy chief said, hours after President Vladimir Putin ordered the first wartime mobilisation since World War Two.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Josep Borrell said the 27 states had made the political decision to apply new sectorial and individual measures. The ministers had also agreed to continue supplying more weapons to Ukraine.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss vowed Wednesday before the United Nations to keep up military aid to war-ravaged Ukraine until it triumphs against Russia.

Truss became the latest Western leader at the UN General Assembly in New York to rail against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hours earlier mobilized reservists in a clear sign he is in no rush to end the conflict.

Putin's move only highlights the "catastrophic failure" of Russia's invasion of its neighbor, and reinforced the resolve of Western allies to back Kyiv, she said.

"We will not rest until Ukraine prevails," Truss told the UN General Assembly on her first trip since taking office, noting that "new UK weapons are arriving in Ukraine as I speak."

"At this crucial moment in the conflict, I pledge that we will sustain or increase our military support to Ukraine for as long as it takes."

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies confirmed in a meeting in New York on Wednesday their cooperation in extending support for Ukraine and responding to food and energy security, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

The development came after President Vladimir Putin announced Russia's first wartime mobilisation since World War Two and moves to annex swaths of Ukrainian territory, and threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia.

Russia and Ukraine carried out an unexpected prisoner swap on Wednesday, the largest since the war began and involving almost 300 people, including 10 foreigners and the commanders who led a prolonged Ukrainian defence of Mariupol earlier this year.

The foreigners released included two Britons and a Moroccan who had been sentenced to death in June after being captured fighting for Ukraine. Also freed were three other Britons, two Americans, a Croatian, and a Swedish national.

North Korea on Wednesday denied it was providing arms to Russia, state media said, weeks after the United States said Moscow was turning to Pyongyang to replenish its stocks depleted by invading Ukraine.

"We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them," an official at the defence ministry's General Bureau of Equipment said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said earlier in September that Russian purchases from North Korea "could include literally millions of rounds, rockets and artillery shells".

However, citing declassified US intelligence, he stressed at the time that the purchases were not yet completed and that there was no indication the weapons were being used in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the United Nations on Wednesday that Ukraine wanted "just punishment" for a crime Russia had committed against his nation.

Zelensky, in an a recorded address to the U.N. General Assembly, said Kyiv had a five-point plan to establish a durable peace - but rejected any suggestion that his ex-Soviet state should adopt neutrality.

And he ruled out any peace proposal other than the plan proposed by Ukraine.

Zelensky said his five non-negotiable conditions for peace included punishment for Russian aggression, restoration of Ukraine's security, and territorial integrity and security guarantees.

"This is the first item of our peace formula. Comprehensive item. Punishment," Zelensky, wearing his trademark khaki tee shirt, told the assembly.

"Punishment for the crime of aggression. Punishment for violation of borders and territorial integrity. Punishment that must be in place until the internationally recognized border is restored."

But he added: "What is NOT in our formula? Neutrality. Those who speak of neutrality, when human values and peace are under attack, mean something else."

Many delegations gave Zelensky a standing ovation after his speech. The Russian delegation remained seated.

Seeking membership of the Western military alliance NATO and the European Union is enshrined in Ukraine's constitution. Russia said even before starting its invasion in February that NATO membership for Ukraine was a "red line" that could not be breached.

Zelensky ruled out "that the settlement can happen on a different basis than the Ukrainian peace formula. The further the Russian terror reaches, the less likely it is that anyone in the world will agree to sit at one table with them."

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of war crimes in different parts of the country they have occupied. Russia denies the allegations and says it does not target civilians.

'A crime has been committed against Ukraine and we demand justice', Zelensky told world leaders. He added that Ukraine wants 'punishment for those trying to steal our territory, punishment for the murders of thousands of people.'

He called for the UN to strip Russia of its veto in the UN Security Council and referred to Russia as a 'terrorist state'.

Zelensky described war crimes he said were committed by Russian troops in Izium, including castrations. He said that Russia wants to prepare 'new Buchas, new Izyums' in Ukraine this winter.

His speech got a standing ovation.

"Joe Biden today in his speech gave a very strong denunciation of Russia's behavour - not today, with a call for mobilisation and nuclear threats - but more broadly everything it has committed against Ukraine," noted Kristine Berzina, a senior fellow for defence and security at the German Marshall Fund's Washington DC bureau. "Russia is a [permanent] member of the UN Security Council. For a Security Council member to invade a neighbour is really contrary to what the entire vision of the United Nations is. But there is also analysis that has been nearly two decades since a US president singled out another country so much in a UN General Assembly speech. The last time we saw something like this was before the Iraq War."

So the "main focus" of Biden's speech was "laying out clearly all of the atrocities that Putin has committed and his armies have committed in Ukraine".

At the same time, Berzina suggested Putin's partial mobilisation order on Wednesday is a sign of weakness. If the West maintains its unity over Ukraine even while Europe suffers the consequences of Russia pulling the plug on its gas supplies, and "we get to the spring and the same kind of resolve exists in the West, Putin won't have that much more he can pull out - and he might have to understand that through his will and force alone he cannot change the world," she said.

Because despite his veiled nuclear threat, Putin "doesn't want World War III either - he wants Ukraine".

In his forthcoming speech to the UN General Assembly this evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky can be expected to address the "nuclear threat that Vladimir Putin had in his speech" this morning, FRANCE 24 correspondent Alexander Query reported from Kyiv. "We also expect in Ukraine the same message that Zelensky has had since the beginning of the invasion, which is 'more support to Ukraine'."

As Putin pulls the plug on gas supplies to Europe, he "expects that support for Ukraine will falter" in the winter "because of the high price of energy", Query went on. So we have all the more reason to expect Zelensky's address to focus on "continued" Western support for Ukraine.

British Prime Minister Liz Truss and US President Joe Biden agreed on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions highlight the need for allies to continue their economic and military support to Ukraine, Truss's office said.

"The leaders condemned Putin's recent belligerent statements on Ukraine," a spokesperson for Truss said following the pair's first bilateral meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York.

US President Joe Biden told Britain's new prime minister, Liz Truss, in their first official talks Wednesday that they are both "committed" to maintaining the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.

"We are both committed to protecting the gains" of the pact, Biden told Truss at their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Truss, attending her first UN session as British leader, said she was "looking forward to discussing the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and how we make sure that's upheld into the future."

Truss has expressed hope she can negotiate a resolution to a dispute between Britain and the European Union over post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland.

The dispute centers on where to establish a customs border now that Britain is cut from the European single market - either between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland or between Northern Ireland and EU member Republic of Ireland.

The UN General Assembly convened on Wednesday against a backdrop of Vladimir Putin ordering a "partial" mobilisation for Russia's war against Ukraine and his veiled threat to use nuclear weapons. The reactions in Ukraine are mixed.

"Some people I've spoken to today [are] saying 'we must absolutely treat this as a bluff; Russia would never go for this nuclear option' and also 'nothing's really changed; we've heard this before'," FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg reported from Kharkiv. "Ukrainians are aware though that there is, in a way, a difference, because there are these referendums - pseudo-referendums - that are going to be held the day after tomorrow across all of the territory that Russia currently occupies in Ukraine, which probably will lead to Russia claiming these territories as part of the Russian Federation."

Those pseudo-referendums will then allow Russia to "say it's defending its own territory, and it's always in terms of 'defending our own territory' that Vladimir Putin refers to the possibility of using 'all means necessary' - hinting there at that nuclear option," Cragg continued. "So I have spoken to some people today here in Kharkiv who say that they are quite worried about it. And also what a lot of people say is [...] they're not sure that Vladimir Putin can be counted on to act rationally."

Biden's address to the UN was really a "reply to Vladimir Putin this morning, who made this very short speech earlier in the day, which was broadcast in Russia (you have to remember that Putin is also appealing to a domestic public)," said FRANCE 24 International Affairs Editor Philip Turle. "What we've seen here for the first time is a change of position by Vladimir Putin, because up until that speech he's been saying since the 24th of February that this 'special military operation', as Russians call it, is going to plan.

"Well that is obviously not the case now because he's announced that there going to be the drafting up of more soldiers to go to Ukraine, to back up the Russian forces that are already on the ground. So I think that's going to come as some concern to the Russian people. You've seen these protests [...] this afternoon."

Putin's announcement of referendums - which democratic countries have denounced as mere pseudo-referendums - is strategic, Turle suggested: "If they vote to become part of the Russian Federation, then any attempt by the West to try to take control will be seen as the West trying to violate Russian sovereignty. So this is upping the ante by the side of Vladimir Putin."

Putin "badly needs" an upswing in his great power contest with the West by somehow managing to split the Western alliance, Turle continued, seeing as Russia is "losing ground in Ukraine itself".

"For me, it was a kind of empty speech - Joe Biden didn't say anything new; it was some strong words, but I didn't hear a real answer to Vladimir Putin's speech," said Romuald Sciora, an associate researcher at the IRIS think-tank in Paris.

The US should have been "stronger" in its response early in the war when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "asked for a no fly zone et cetera", Sciora continued. In his speech on Wednesday, Biden "should have been really clear that if Putin uses any nuclear one -- even a smaller one - [...] the US will answer strongly

Biden "should really have spoken about a red line", Sciora went on - and "he didn't".

Joe Biden said Wednesday that Americans "stand with the brave women of Iran" during growing protests over the death of a young woman arrested by the country's morality police.

"Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights," Biden told the UN General Assembly.

The United States is determined to promote its vision of global freedom and prosperity but does not seek "conflict" with rival China or a new Cold War, Joe Biden told the UN on Wednesday.

"Let me be direct about the competition between the United States and China," Biden said in an address to the UN General Assembly. "As we manage shifting geopolitical trends, the United States will conduct itself as a reasonable leader. We do not seek conflict, we do not seek a Cold War."

Washington will not call on countries to "choose" between US and other partners, Biden stressed, though "the United States will be unabashed in promoting our vision of a free, open, secure and prosperous world."

Joe Biden warned Wednesday that nuclear wars "cannot be won" and said Washington is ready to pursue arms control measures.

"A nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought," the US president told the UN General Assembly as he lambasted Moscow for "making irresponsible nuclear threats."

"The United States is ready to pursue critical armed control measures," said the president, who also vowed that Washington will not allow Tehran to obtain atomic weapons.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday urged the world to ramp up pressure on Vladimir Putin after the Russian leader ordered a "partial" mobilisation for his war of aggression against Ukraine.

The international community must "put maximum pressure" on Putin, whose decisions "will serve to isolate Russia further," Macron said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Joe Biden told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that Washington supports the expansion of the UN Security Council to better represent areas including Africa and Latin America.

"The United States supports increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent representatives of the council," the US president said.

"This includes permanent seats for those nations we've long supported -- permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean. The United States is committed to this vital work," he added.

US President Joe Biden pulled no punches in condemning Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine in his address to the UN General Assembly. "No one threatened Russia and no one other than Russia sought conflict," Biden said - noting that Russia's objective is "extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state". These actions "shamelessly violated" the UN charter, he continued.

Biden emphasised Russian President Vladimir Putin's responsibility for the unprovoked invasion on February 24. It is a "war by one man", he said.

The US will continue to "stand in solidarity" with Ukraine and wants the war to end on "just" terms, Biden added.

"Lots of criticism of the United States in there, particularly former President Donald Trump," noted FRANCE 24 International Affairs Editor Philip Turle in response to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's speech.

Raisi made no mention of the protests rocking Iran over the death of a young woman in the custody of the country's Islamist 'morality police'. "I think that he is probably avoiding talking about that because for the Iranian president that's a domestic issue, not a world issue."

Overall, Turle continued, it was a "defiant speech" -- and "I don't think anything that we would not expect from the Iranian president".

President Joe Biden will announce $2.9 billion in additional US funding to combat global food insecurity when he speaks to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, the White House said.

The new money builds on $6.9 billion in US food security funding already committed this year, the White House said. Biden is also expected to deliver a rebuke of Russia's war in Ukraine when he gives a speech at the United Nations in New York.

The US has strengthened its focus on food security since Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine worsened a global food crisis that was already fueled by climate change and the Covid pandemic. Russia and Ukraine are major grain and fertiliser exporters and shipments were disrupted by the war.

Iran's president told the United Nations on Wednesday that his country was not seeking an atomic weapon and demanded US guarantees it would abide by any revived nuclear deal.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is not seeking to build or obtain nuclear weapons and such weapons have no place in our doctrine," President Ebrahim Raisi told the UN General Assembly.

"The leader who descended into the arena of the fight against terrorism was no one other than the beloved late martyr Qassem Soleimani," Raisi said - referring to Soleimani's role in the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq during the 2010s and his assassination in a US airstrike ordered by then President Donald Trump in January 2020.

Holding up a photo of Soleimani, Raisi said his killing was a "savage" and "illegal crime".

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday accused the West of "double standards" on women's rights as his country is gripped by protests over the death of a woman arrested by religious police.

"We have this double standard where attention is solely focused on one side and not all," the hardline cleric told the United Nations General Assembly, pointing to deaths of indigenous women in Canada and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. Amid warnings that Iran will not get a better proposal to revive the 2015 nuclear accord, Raisi said of his first-ever appearance at the United Nations as Iran's leader that it would be an opportunity to explain to the world about alleged "malice" world powers have toward Iran.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday condemned President Vladimir Putin's order for a partial military mobilisation to support Russia's war in Ukraine and hold annexation referendums as an "act of desperation".

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Scholz insisted Russia "cannot win this criminal war" in Ukraine and that Putin "with his most recent decision makes everything much worse".

US President Joe Biden is ready to make the case to world leaders at the UN General Assembly that Russia's "naked aggression" in Ukraine is an affront to the heart of what the international body stands for as he looks to rally allies to stand firm in backing the Ukrainian resistance.

Biden, during his time at the UN General Assembly, also planned to meet Wednesday with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, announce a global food security initiative and press allies to meet an $18 billion target to replenish the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

But White House officials say the crux of the president's visit to the UN this year would be a full-throated condemnation of Russia as its brutal war nears the seven-month mark.

"He'll offer a firm rebuke of Russia's unjust war in Ukraine and make a call to the world to continue to stand against the naked aggression that we've seen these past several months," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in previewing the president's address. "He will underscore the importance of strengthening the United Nations and reaffirm core tenets of its charter at a time when a permanent member of the Security Council has struck at the very heart of the charter by challenging the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty."

The address comes as Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine have announced plans to hold Kremlin-backed referendums in days ahead on becoming part of Russia and as Moscow is losing ground in the invasion.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)