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Foreign Secretary urges countries to reject Putin’s ‘sham referenda’ in Ukraine

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Victoria Jones/PA)
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (Victoria Jones/PA)

The “devastating consequences” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine become clearer every day, the Foreign Secretary has told a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

James Cleverly called on countries to reject the “charade” of referenda he said Russian President Vladimir Putin will use to annex swathes of Ukrainian territory and further escalate his aggression.

The Security Council meeting in New York came a day after the Ukraine conflict threatened to spiral into a nuclear crisis as Mr Putin warned his country would use “all the means at our disposal” to protect itself.

The Russian president also moved to annex Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine, and announced a partial military mobilisation as the Kremlin attempts to regain ground in the face of a counterattack by Ukraine’s forces.

Mr Cleverly addressed his counterparts at the special foreign minister-level meeting of the Security Council on atrocities committed in Ukraine.

He said: “Every day the devastating consequences of Russia’s invasion become more clear…

“We see the mounting evidence of Russian atrocities against civilians, including indiscriminate shelling and targeted attacks on over 200 medical facilities and 40 educational institutions and horrific acts of sexual violence.”

He said in parts of Ukraine under Russian control, civilians are subject to torture, arbitrary detention and forced deportation to Russia.

The Foreign Secretary spoke right after Sergei Lavrov, but the Russian foreign minister left the chamber straight after his turn.

Mr Lavrov sought to justify Russia’s invasion by claiming “radical forces” and “neo-Nazis” had been ruling Ukraine since 2014 “as a result of an armed coup with direct support of western countries”.

Mr Cleverly said: “Today I have listened to further instalments of Russia’s catalogues of distortions, dishonesty and disinformation.

“He’s left the chamber, I’m not surprised. I don’t think Mr Lavrov wants to hear the collective condemnation of this council.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Cleverly argued that Moscow plans to fix the results of referenda on becoming parts of Russia due to be held in Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine.

He said: “We have information which means that we know that Russia is about to hold sham referenda on sovereign Ukrainian territory with no basis in law under the threat of violence after mass displacements of people in areas that voted overwhelmingly for Ukrainian independence.

“We know what Vladimir Putin is doing. He is planning to fabricate the outcome of those referenda, he is planning to use that to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory, and he is planning to use it as a further pretext to escalate his aggression.

“We call on all countries to reject this charade and to refuse to recognise any results.”

Russia is outnumbered on the Security Council, but any meaningful action on Ukraine by the 15-member body has been hampered because it is a veto-wielding permanent member.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken earlier told the meeting that “one man chose this war, one man can end it”.

“If Russia stops fighting, the war ends, but if Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends,” he said.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres and International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan briefed the council, which was meeting during the UN General Assembly.

World leaders and senior diplomats from across the globe descended on New York for the annual meeting this week, with Mr Cleverly attending as part of a UK delegation headed by Liz Truss – his first overseas trip since taking the role.

In her summit speech, the Prime Minister said Mr Putin was desperately trying to justify a “catastrophic” failure in Ukraine and accused him of “sabre rattling”.