Russia made its case to the world Saturday for its war in Ukraine, repeating a series of grievances about its neighbour and the West to tell the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting of leaders that Moscow had “no choice” but to take military action.

After days of denunciations of Russia at the prominent diplomatic gathering, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to shift the focus to Washington. His speech centered on a claim that the United States and its allies — not Russia, as the West maintains — are aggressively undermining the international system that the UN represents.

The Ukraine war has largely dominated the discussion at the assembly's big annual meeting, and many countries have laid into Russia for its Feb. 24 invasion — denouncing its nuclear threats, alleging it has committed atrocities and war crimes.

The speeches came amid voting in Russian-occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine on whether to join Russia. Moscow characterizes the referendums as self-determination, but Kyiv and its Western allies view them as Kremlin-orchestrated shams with a foregone conclusion.

Some observers think the expected outcome could serve as a pretext for Russian President Vladimir Putin eventually to escalate the war further.

“We can expect President Putin will claim any Ukrainian effort to liberate this land as an attack on so-called Russian territory,'" US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.

Lavrov dismissed the complaints as the West “throwing a fit” about people making a choice on where they feel they belong.

Russia has offered a number of explanations for what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine. Lavrov recapped a couple: risks to Russia from what it considers a hostile government in Kyiv and a NATO alliance that has expanded eastward over the years and relieving Russians living in Ukraine — especially its eastern region of the Donbas — of what Moscow views as the Ukrainian government's oppression.

The aim was “to remove the threats against our security, which NATO has been consistently creating in Ukraine,” he explained.

While Ukraine has recently driven Russian troops from some areas in the northeast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this week warned the assembly that he believes Moscow wants to spend the winter getting ready for a new offensive or at least preparing fortifications while mobilizing more troops.

Regardless, he declared that his forces will ultimately oust Russian troops from all of Ukraine.

The war has disrupted the trade of Ukrainian and Russian grain and Russian fertiliser, touching off a global food crisis. A deal recently brokered by the UN and Turkey has helped get Ukrainian grain moving, but fertiliser shipments have proved more difficult.

At the Security Council on Thursday, Ukraine and Russia faced off, in a rare moment when Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, were in the same room — though they kept their distance.

The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in March to deplore Russia's aggression against Ukraine, call for immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces, and urge protection for millions of civilians. The next month, members agreed by a smaller margin to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

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