Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked the United Nations to punish Russia for the war of aggression against his country. "A crime has been committed against Ukraine and we demand punishment," Zelenskyy said in a video message to the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday. Russia must be punished for the killing, torture, humiliation and disastrous turmoil it has thrown Ukraine into.
At the same time, Ukraine and Russia carried out one of the largest prisoner exchanges in the war that lasted almost seven months on Thursday night. 205 captured Ukrainians were released, according to the head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak. These included defenders of Mariupol, who had resisted the Russian conquerors entrenched in the Azovstal steelworks until mid-May.
In Russia, several thousand people protested the Kremlin's announcement that 300,000 reservists would be called up. According to the civil rights portal OVD-Info, the police arrested more than 1,380 protesters in 38 cities by Wednesday evening, most of them in St. Petersburg and Moscow. For Ukraine, Thursday is the 211th day of the Russian war of aggression.
As a punishment for Russia, Zelenskyy called for the neighboring country to be isolated in international organizations - at least as long as the aggression continues.
"Take away the right to vote! Strip the delegations of their privileges! Cancel the right of veto if it is a member of the UN Security Council!” the Ukrainian President appealed. Blocking all relations with Russia, including trade, is both a punishment for Moscow and a step towards peace for Ukraine. Most of the representatives of the 193 UN member states gave standing applause to the speech of the Ukrainian President. Meanwhile, the representatives of Russia remained seated.
According to Yermak, Ukraine released 55 Russian soldiers who had been captured during the offensive in the Kharkov region in early September. The arrested pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, a confidant of President Vladimir Putin, was also allowed to leave the country.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the exchange was mediated by Turkey, according to the state news agency Anadolu. Erdogan called the agreement an "important step" towards ending the war in Ukraine. Five of the Ukrainian commanders captured in Mariupol are in Turkey under Erdogan's special protection, Yermak said. "Our heroes are free," he wrote.
As part of the exchange, the Moscow-controlled separatists in eastern Ukraine released ten foreigners who were flown to Riyadh through mediation by Saudi Arabia. These were five Britons, two Americans and one each from Sweden, Croatian and Moroccan.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss spoke on Twitter of "very welcome news". This ended months of uncertainty and suffering for those affected and their families. Among those released is a 28-year-old Briton who was sentenced to death in a show trial as a mercenary, Health Secretary Robert Jenrick said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that his two released compatriots had previously joined Ukrainian troops and been captured in combat. US citizens should not travel to Ukraine at this time, Blinken warned, but rather support the attacked country in other ways.
The protest against the partial mobilization ordered by Putin brought thousands of people to the streets in Russia. According to OVD-Info, more than 550 demonstrators were arrested in St. Petersburg alone, and more than 500 in the capital Moscow.
In Moscow, people shouted "No to war!" and demanded a "Russia without Putin". Photos and videos showed how police roughly packed the mostly young demonstrators and dragged them into buses. From there, those arrested were taken to police stations. There were similarly large protests in the days immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The call-up of the reservists is intended to compensate for the obvious lack of soldiers in the Russian armed forces in the Ukraine war. Moscow also wants to use sham referendums, which are completely worthless under international law, to join the occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia.
To avoid the risk of being called up, many young men from Russia immediately left on Wednesday. According to media reports, the prices for plane tickets to Turkey, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Armenia have skyrocketed. "Apparently many Russians are leaving their homeland: anyone who hates Putin's path and loves liberal democracy is very welcome in Germany," wrote Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) on Twitter.
According to director Rafael Grossi, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has started "real negotiations" with Russia and Ukraine over a protection zone for the embattled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. Grossi said in New York that he had met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. "The wheels are in motion."
There is no concrete result yet, said Grossi. But he has the impression that there is a conviction on all sides that the establishment of such a protection zone is indispensable. The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant has been under Russian control since the beginning of March and has been repeatedly shelled.
The UN Security Council is meeting in New York, and both Lavrov and Kuleba are expected to attend. Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock from the Greens should also speak at the meeting.
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