Sun, 10 Dec 2023

US President Joe Biden pulled no punches in condemning Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine in his address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. "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". Follow FRANCE 24's liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

7:49pm: Fears in Ukraine that Putin will not 'act rationally'

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."

7:47pm: Putin 'badly needs' an upswing from splitting West

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".

6:42pm: 'Empty' speech from Biden?

"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".

5:56pm: Americans 'stand with the brave women of Iran', Biden says

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.

5:49pm: US does not seek 'Cold War' with China, Biden says

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."

5:48pm: Nuclear wars 'cannot be won', Biden says after Putin veiled threat

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.

5:35pm: Macron urges world to put 'maximum pressure' on Putin

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.

5:32pm: Biden endorses expanding UN Security Council

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.

5:14pm: 'No one threatened Russia', Biden says

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.

4:17pm: Iran sees woman's death in police custody as 'not a world issue'

"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".

4:14pm: Biden set to announce $2.9 billion in food security in UN address

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.

4:01pm: Iran's Raisi says not seeking nuclear weapons, urges US guarantees

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.

3:48pm: Iran's Raisi pays tribute to General Qassem Soleimani

"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".

3:40pm: Iran's Raisi accuses West of 'double standard' on women's rights

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.

3:28pm: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addresses UN

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.

2:36pm: Scholz calls Putin's announcements 'act of desperation'

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".

6:07am: Biden at UN to call Russian war an affront to body's charter

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)

Originally published on France24

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