World opinion shifts against Russia as Ukraine worries grow

NEW YORK (AP) - The tide of international opinion appears to be turning decidedly against Russia as a number of non-aligned countries join the United States and its allies in condemning Moscow's war in Ukraine and its threat to the principles of the international rules-based order .
Western officials have repeatedly said Russia has been isolated since invading Ukraine in February. Until recently, however, that was largely wishful thinking. But on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday much of the international community spoke out against the conflict in a rare show of unity at the often fragmented United Nations.
Even before the UN speeches on Thursday, the tide seemed to be turning against Putin. Chinese and Indian leaders had criticized the war at a high-level summit in Uzbekistan last week. And then the UN General Assembly ignored Russia's objections and voted overwhelmingly to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be the only leader to address the body remotely, rather than requiring him to appear in person.
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This shift against Russia accelerated after President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday the mobilization of about 300,000 additional troops for Ukraine, signaling the unlikely end of the war. Putin also suggested that nuclear weapons could be an option. This was followed by Russia's announcement that it would hold independence referendums in several occupied Ukrainian regions with a view to possible annexation.
These announcements came just as the General Assembly, considered the most important event on the global diplomatic calendar, was taking place in New York.
Numerous heads of state and government used their speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday to denounce Russia's war. That trend continued on Thursday in both the assembly hall and the normally deeply divided UN Security Council, where virtually all 15 council members took turns delivering scathing criticism of Russia - a council member - for already angering several major global crises and endangering the Foundations of the world organization.
The apparent change of heart gives Ukraine and its Western allies hope that increasing isolation will increase pressure on Putin to negotiate a peace. But few are overly optimistic. Putin has staked his legacy on the Ukraine war and few expect him to back down. And Russia is hardly isolated. Many of his allies depend on him for energy, food and military aid, and are likely to stand with Putin regardless of what happens in Ukraine.
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Still, it was striking to hear Russia's nominal friends like China and India, following last week's statements, speak of serious concerns they have about the conflict and its impact on global food and energy shortages and threats to concepts of sovereignty and sovereignty have territorial integrity enshrined in the UN Charter.
Brazil reported similar concerns. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa form the so-called BRICS bloc of countries that have often shunned or openly rejected Western initiatives and views on international relations.
Only one country, Belarus, a non-council member and Russian ally invited to attend, spoke out in support of Russia but also called for a quick end to the fighting, which it described as a "tragedy".
"We hear a lot at the United Nations about the divisions between countries," said Foreign Minister Antony Blinken. “What is striking of late is the remarkable unity among member states when it comes to Russia's war against Ukraine. Heads of state and government from developing and industrialized countries, large and small, north and south, spoke in the General Assembly about the consequences of the war and the need to end it.”
"Even a number of nations that have close ties with Moscow have publicly stated that they have serious questions and concerns about President Putin's ongoing invasion," Blinken said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was careful not to condemn the war but said China's firm stance was that "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected. The purposes of the principles of the UN Charter should be respected.”
Indian Foreign Minister S. Jayashankar said: "The course of the Ukraine conflict is a matter of deep concern for the international community." He called for accountability for atrocities and abuses committed in Ukraine. “If egregious attacks committed in broad daylight go unpunished, this Council needs to reflect on the signals we are sending about impunity. There has to be consistency if we are to ensure credibility," he said.
And Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto Franca said immediate efforts to end the war are vital. "The continuation of hostilities endangers the lives of innocent civilians and threatens the food and energy security of millions of families in other regions, particularly in developing countries," he said. "The escalation risks that arise for the current conflict dynamics are simply too great, and the consequences for the world order are not foreseeable."
Similar rebukes were issued by foreign ministers and top officials from Albania, Britain, France, Ireland, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico and Norway.
"Russia's actions are a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter," Albanian Foreign Minister Olta Xhacka said. “We all tried to prevent this conflict. We couldn't, but we must not fail to hold Russia accountable."
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the invasion a "blatant breach of international law," and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said: "If we don't hold Russia accountable, we're sending a message to big countries that they can exploit their neighbors with impunity." "
Unsurprisingly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been both uncompromising and defensive, targeting Zelenskyy. Citing a phrase often attributed to President Franklin Roosevelt, Lavrov called Zelenskyy "a bastard," but Western leaders considered him "our bastard."
He repeated a long list of Russia's grievances about Ukraine and accused Western countries of using Ukraine for anti-Russian activities and policies.
"Everything I said today simply confirms that the decision to conduct the special military operation was inevitable," Lavrov said, following Russia's practice of not calling the invasion a war.
Russia has denied being isolated, and the State Department took to social media to publicize a series of seemingly cordial meetings Lavrov has held with fellow foreign ministers at the UN in recent days.
Nonetheless, Blinken and his colleagues from other NATO countries took advantage of what they see as growing resistance and impatience with Putin.
And several speakers, including Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, pointed out that Lavrov skipped the meeting except for his speaking time.
"I've noticed that Russian diplomats are fleeing almost as quickly as Russian soldiers," Kuleba said, referring to Lavrov's hasty departure and recent withdrawals of Russian troops in Ukraine.
Wladimir Putin
President of Russia
Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Sixth and current President of Ukraine
Anton Blinken
American government official and 71st US Secretary of State

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