The UN secretary general has called Russian threats to use nuclear weapons “totally unacceptable” and denounced Kremlin plans to annex parts of Ukraine as a “violation of the UN charter and of international law”.
António Guterres also raised concerns that the impact of the conflict could cause a food supply crisis next year. “Simply put the world will run out of food,” he said.
Guterres was speaking at the start of a UN security council meeting the day after Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization and threatened the use of nuclear weapons “if the territorial integrity of our country is threatened”. Putin also approved referendums on joining Russia in four occupied Ukrainian regions, raising the prospect that he would then deem Ukrainian operations to recapture the territory as such a threat.
“The idea of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, has become a subject of debate. This in itself is totally unacceptable,” Guterres said.
“I’m also deeply concerned by reports of plans to organize so-called referenda in areas of Ukraine that are not currently under government control,” he said. “Any annexation of a state’s territory by another state resulting from a threat or use of force is a violation of the UN charter and of international law.”
US president Joe Biden rejected the nuclear threat as reckless, and other countries supportive of Ukraine said they would not be deterred by Russia’s threats.
Russia was widely condemned at Thursday’s security council meeting chaired by the French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna.