U.S. levies Iran sanctions, rallies leaders against Russia

In a sign that the Russian war in Ukraine has provoked an existential crisis for the United Nations, several of its key members on Thursday condemned Moscow’s actions, but took no new steps to end the bloodshed and food, energy and and stop humanitarian crises.

And in another move, the Biden administration on Thursday imposed economic sanctions on Iran’s notorious “morality police” in response to the death of a young woman in their care. The unusual US move — sanctions tend to target military and political entities, not social control bodies in Iran — came a day after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed the UN General Assembly.

Raisi sought to deflect international outrage amid widespread street protests in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman who was reportedly arrested because her government-mandated headscarf did not fully cover her hair. Raisi refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing, instead citing human rights abuses by the US and other Western countries.

A crowd of protesters, one holding a photo of a woman with the words "Memory of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini."

People protest Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi over the death of Mahsa Amini outside the United Nations in New York City on Wednesday. The 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian died in vice custody last week after allegedly showing off some of her hair.

(Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Iran’s morality police are made up of men who enforce dress codes and other restrictions on women and the wider society. The new US sanctions include some law enforcement officials in response to Iran’s crackdown on protests over Amini’s death – repression that has killed several others.

“The Iranian government must end its systematic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest,” said US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. “The United States will continue to express our support for human rights in Iran and will hold accountable those who violate them.”

Accountability, whether for Iran over punishing dissent or Russia for alleged atrocities in Ukraine, took center stage at this week’s annual UN General Assembly, as attendees debated a world mired in seemingly insurmountable troubles .

As world leaders gathered in New York, delegates used an extraordinary session of the United Nations Security Council, the governing body of the United Nations, to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for violating key international rules – those , which underlie the UN ruthless attack on Ukraine

Workers lift a dirt-covered corpse out of a hole in the ground.

Workers last week exhume the body of a civilian near the recently retaken Ukraine town of Izium, where a mass grave site containing hundreds of graves was discovered. Witnesses and a Ukrainian investigator said some of the dead were shot, while others were killed by Russian artillery fire, mines or airstrikes.

(Evgeniy Maloletka / Associated Press)

Russia “is violating the very rules for which this body was created,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in one of several speeches delivered by the 15-member council and Ukraine.

As a sign of support for Ukraine, Landsbergis wore a blue and yellow armband – the colors of his flag – with his dark suit.

“The very international order that we have gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes,” Blinken said. “We cannot – we will – not allow President Putin to get away with it.”

But if the UN is seen as increasingly ineffective, it is unclear how world leaders should address multinational challenges.

Thursday’s General Assembly session was convened to discuss peace and security in Ukraine, as well as the issues of impunity and accountability. For most delegations, this meant holding Russia accountable for the invasion of Ukraine and alleged atrocities in numerous Ukrainian cities and regions.

However, Moscow’s representative said Ukraine enjoyed impunity and should be blamed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used his comments to turn the war narrative on its head, repeating Moscow’s claim that the conflict was Ukraine’s fault for what it describes as the abuse and repression of Russian-speaking and ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine called, where Moscow-backed separatists have been operating for several years. And he reiterated Russia’s claim that the vast nation is under military threat from Ukraine and its Western backers.

“Of course,” said Lavrov, who implicitly refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government, “the Kiev regime owes its impunity to its Western sponsors, primarily Germany and France, but also the United States.”

“Particularly cynical are the states that are pumping weapons into Ukraine and training its soldiers,” he said, with the aim of “despite the casualties and destruction, delaying the fighting for as long as possible in order to wear it down and weaken Russia.” ”

There was speculation among US officials that Lavrov might not attend the meeting to avoid the expected barrage of criticism. He appeared just before it was his turn to speak and left immediately after.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who recently took office when Liz Truss was appointed to succeed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, described Lavrov’s characterization of the war as “Russia’s catalog of distortions, dishonesty and disinformation”.

In one dig, after Lavrov left the room, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russian diplomats appeared to be fleeing just as quickly as their soldiers. It was a reference to reports of massive desertions by troops deployed by Putin ahead of Ukrainian advances.

The Biden administration has sought to bolster support for Western-led efforts to arm, train and assist Ukraine in its war with Russia. Some countries that depend on Russian weapons or fuel, such as India, have been reluctant.

In Thursday’s speeches, Blinken and others portrayed the war as a tragedy that stretches well beyond Ukraine and Europe, affecting the global South and countries in Asia and Africa that were cut off from food supplies when Russia stormed the Black Sea ports of Ukraine and their shipments of millions blocked tons of grain, fertilizer and cooking oil.

“On a global level, the conflict has triggered a triple food, energy and financial crisis,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when convening the meeting.

“This is pushing millions more into extreme poverty and hunger and undoing years of development gains,” he said, citing problems exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.

Particularly critical, say Guterres, Blinken and other diplomats, is Russia’s violation of the UN Charter, its fundamental documents, by attempting to use force to take over a sovereign neighboring country. Both President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced this abuse by Putin and proposed removing Russia’s right of veto in the Security Council.

But no such action was taken as of Thursday, and it’s not clear if there is a mechanism to withdraw those powers. Binding international sanctions against Moscow are nearly impossible due to Russia’s veto powers, which have allowed the country to block punitive measures against Russia through the UN.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks on a screen, in the foreground the logo of the United Nations.

In a video address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, together with US President Biden, spoke out in favor of withdrawing Russia’s right of veto in the Security Council.

(Jason DeCrow / Associated Press)

“Defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is about much more than standing up for a nation’s right to choose its own path, fundamental as that right is,” Blinken said Thursday. “It is also about protecting an international order in which no nation can redraw the borders of another by force.

“If we don’t defend this principle, if the Kremlin violates it so blatantly, we’re sending a message to aggressors everywhere that they can ignore it,” he continued. “We put every country at risk. We are opening the door to a less secure, less peaceful world.”

Noting that Putin, far from resigning or seeking a diplomatic solution, this week decided to send tens of thousands more Russians into battle, just as world leaders were gathering at the United Nations, Blinken and others noted met

“This is a war you will not win,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, addressing Putin without naming him. “Stop sending more of your own citizens to their deaths… Stop spreading hunger around the world… Stop crippling this [U.N.] Body.” U.S. levies Iran sanctions, rallies leaders against Russia

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