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Zelenskyy tells U.N. it must act now to stop Putin as Russia is "deliberately destroying Ukrainian cities"

Zelenskyy tells U.N. leaders of atrocities
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy addresses U.N. Security Council on evidence of atrocities 14:50

United Nations — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday that Russian troops invading his country had "killed entire families, adults and children, and they tried to burn the bodies." He made it clear that he believed the United Nations had failed to end the brutal attack on his country and needed to change to serve its intended purpose of keeping peace in the world.

Zelenskyy addressed the U.N.'s most powerful body — of which Russia is a permanent, veto-wielding member — amid growing outrage around the world over fast-emerging evidence that Russian forces deliberately killed civilians in Ukraine

The Biden administration has backed Zelenskyy's accusation that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine, but it has not yet agreed with his assertion that Putin's forces are guilty of the specific crime of genocide. 

Zelenskyy accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of acting like a brutal colonizer. He made it clear that without changes to stop Russia using its veto power to block Security Council action, the United Nations and the entire system of global security it represents could be rendered obsolete. The Ukrainian leader called on the U.N. to either kick Russia out, or change the Council's rules.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via remote video to the U.N. Security Council
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via remote feed during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on April 5, 2022, at United Nations headquarters in New York. John Minchillo / AP

"Ukraine has the moral right to propose a reform of the world security system," he said. "We have proven that we help others... now we need decisions from the Security Council for peace in Ukraine."

"The U.N. system must be reformed immediately so that the [Security Council] veto is not the right to die," said Zelenskyy.  

Suggesting more atrocities were yet to be revealed, he accused Russia of "deliberately destroying Ukrainian cities."

Residents react to alleged massacre by Russian forces in Bucha 04:14

"Now the world can see what they have done in Bucha," he told the Security Council. "But the world has yet to see what Russia has done in other regions." 

"Russian troops are deliberately destroying Ukrainian cities to ashes with artillery and airstrikes. They are deliberately blocking cities, creating mass starvation. They deliberately shoot columns of civilians on the road trying to escape from hostilities. They even deliberately blow up shelters where civilians hide from airstrikes," Zelenskyy said.

Biden says Putin should be tried for war crimes 02:20

CBS News has witnessed firsthand clear evidence of atrocities in towns and villages around Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. Bodies were found littering the streets of Bucha, with scores more dumped into hastily dug mass graves. 

The gruesome scenes left behind by Vladimir Putin's invading forces have led to calls for tougher sanctions against the Kremlin, including a complete cut-off of gas and oil imports from Russia. Germany and France reacted by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats, suggesting they were spies. U.S. President Joe Biden said Putin should be tried for war crimes. 

Bodies of civilians lie in the street, amid Russia's invasion on Ukraine, in Bucha
The body of a man with his hands bound behind his back, who according to residents was shot by Russian soldiers, lies in the street amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Bucha, Ukraine, April 3, 2022. ZOHRA BENSEMRA/REUTERS

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened Tuesday's Security Council session, blasting Russia for the "senseless loss of life, massive devastation in urban centers, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure" in Ukraine.

"I will never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha," Guterres said.

He spoke indirectly about Russia's vetos and threats of vetos that have prevented Security Council action over the Ukraine war thus far. In several instances, the U.S. and the U.K., along with allies, have taken votes to the General Assembly after Russia blocked the Council from even taking measures up for consideration.

President Biden's U.N. envoy, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield addressed reform that the U.S. is pursuing. "The Secretary-General said that confronting this threat is the Security Council's charge. It is. And it is also the responsibility of U.N. leaders and leaders around the world — every single Member State with a voice in the General Assembly," she said.

"No one can be a shield for Russia's aggression," Thomas-Greenfield said, adding that "suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council is something we, collectively, have the power to do in the General Assembly. Our votes can make real difference." 

Russia's Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has denied the allegations, but was left frustrated on Monday when Britain, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council, blocked his country from calling a Council meeting on what he called the "fake news" out of Bucha.

U.N. Security Council's emergency meeting, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in New York City
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia addresses the United Nations Security Council during a meeting, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, April 5, 2022. ANDREW KELLY/REUTERS

"I deeply regret the divisions that have prevented the Security Council from acting not only on Ukraine, but on other threats to peace and security around the world," Guterres said Tuesday.

Just back from a visit to Moscow to negotiate a humanitarian cease-fire, Martin Griffiths, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told diplomats that "Ukrainian civilians are paying too high a price for war."

"Almost 11 million people have been forced to flee their homes, of whom more than 4.2 million are now refugees in generous neighboring countries and beyond," Griffiths said. "In total, more than a quarter of Ukraine's population has fled."

"The horror deepened this past weekend as shocking images emerged of dead civilians, some with hands bound, lying in the streets of Bucha," said Rosemary DiCarlo, the U.N. Under Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding affairs.  

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