VILNIUS – Russia’s actions in Ukraine have led to the danger of a looming nuclear disaster in Europe, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said in his address at the 77th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) in New York on Tuesday.
He also called on international community to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim of aggression.
“These past few months have also revealed the danger of a looming nuclear disaster in Europe. The deployment of Russian military personnel and weaponry at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is alarming and totally unacceptable… A nuclear power plant should never be used as a military base!” the Lithuanian leader stressed.
Europe's largest atomic facility – the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Russian-held territory in Ukraine – has become a hot spot of fighting in recent weeks, triggering concerns about a possible nuclear disaster similar to the Chernobyl accident in 1986.
Moreover, Ukrainian officials reported that the Russian army on Monday "carried out a missile attack" on the industrial site of the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant, Ukraine's second-largest nuclear facility in the south of the country.
Nauseda also pointed out that Russia’s irresponsible rhetoric on the possible use of nuclear weapons directly contradicted its role as a P5 state and the commitment it had made in the January P5 Leaders’ Statement on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races.
“We must collectively condemn such actions and require Russia to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all troops from the entire territory of Ukraine. It must also stop irresponsible and dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behavior. This should include withdrawing military and other personnel from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power Plant,” the Lithuanian president said.
He emphasized that he would prefer to talk about peace at the United Nations but was forced to talk about war.
“On the 24th of February, a UN Security Council permanent member started an unjustified, unprovoked, and illegal war against a neighboring country. This gross violation of international law undermined the very essence of the United Nations,” he said.
“Behind the mask of an “energy superpower” there is a dangerous imperial power seeking to occupy and annex its neighbors. Searching for reasons to justify that annexation. Rewriting history. Using economic and energy blackmail. Spreading disinformation and propaganda,” Nauseda stressed adding that “Russia’s violations of the founding principles of the United Nations did not start seven months ago as destructive actions have undermined international security for many years”.
“Today I call on all of you. Look at what is happening in Ukraine. Look at it attentively. Who is the aggressor and who is the victim?”
“Every UN member is expected to respect the rules of international order we have been creating through decades. But it is only up to us to decide what is still tolerable and what is not. Where are the red lines and were the red lines crossed?” the Lithuanian leader said.
“For how can we tolerate a member of the international community in a war of conquest and annihilation? A country that is deliberately attacking the rules-based world order. A country whose actions make it more difficult for us all to maintain peace and security across the globe,” he stressed reminding about many thousands of Ukrainians who “have been tortured and killed, millions were displaced or forced to flee their homeland”.
In his address at the UNGA, the Lithuanian president praised Ukrainian people for their courage and resolve to defend their country.
“Inspired by their heroic struggle, the international community should take an even more active role to boost Ukrainian resilience to withstand this hardship,” Nauseda said.
He also stressed that the ongoing suffering of the Ukrainian people was further amplified by Russia’s proxy – the Belarusian regime.
Nauseda reminded of the necessity to hold aggressors accountable and to stop financing “the bloody war by buying the aggressor’s energy resources”.
“It would significantly affect its ability to continue this brutal war,” he emphasized.