Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday to lash out at the United States and its Western allies and divert attention from recent developments in the war in Ukraine.
He laid out Russia’s case for invading Ukraine, flipping the narrative of the war and repeating what the Kremlin has said before: that his country was left with “no choice” seven months ago but to start “a special military operation” to protect Russians in the eastern regions, where many of the battles are currently raging, because Ukraine had trampled on the rights of ethnic Russians living there.
He also framed the United States and its allies as being the ones ignoring international law in order to realize “their own selfish interests.”
“The future of the world order is being decided today,” he said, adding: “The question is whether or not this is going to be the kind of order with one hegemon at the head of it, making everyone else live according to their notorious rules, of benefit to that hegemon only. Or are we going to have a democratic, fair world.”
Mr. Lavrov’s address came near the end of the weeklong General Assembly and while referendums in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine are underway. The voting in those areas on whether to join Russia is widely seen by Western officials as a sham that is expected to culminate in Moscow’s annexation of an area larger than Portugal.
While the Kremlin has used referendums and annexation in the past to exert its will, the boldness of President Vladimir V. Putin’s gambit in Ukraine far exceeds anything he has tried before. Huge numbers of people have fled the areas that Russia controls, the process has been rushed and referendums are taking place against a backdrop of oppression — with U.N. experts citing evidence of war crimes in a forceful new statement.
To the General Assembly, Mr. Lavrov framed Russia as being unfairly targeted, and repeated Mr. Putin’s claim that the West aims to destroy his country.
Hatred of Russia in the West “is unprecedented, the scope is grotesque,” he said. “They are not shying away from declaring the intent to inflict a military defeat on our country, but also to destroy and fracture Russia.”
The war in Ukraine loomed over the General Assembly this week as divisions among world leaders dominated their discourse. At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday, Mr. Lavrov and Antony J. Blinken, the American secretary of state, were in the same room together for the first time since before the war. At that meeting, Mr. Blinken delivered some of his sharpest comments since the war began.
“Tell President Putin to stop the horror he started,” he said. “One man chose this war. One man can end it.”
Marc Santora and Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.