Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : In Diplomatic Quirk, Russia Chairs UN Meeting Decrying Its Strike on Ukraine Kids’ Hospital

 09 July 2024, US, New York: Ukraine's ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks while holding a photo of remnants of the missile X-1 which hit children's hospital in Kyiv during an emergency Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters. (Lev Radin/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
09 July 2024, US, New York: Ukraine's ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks while holding a photo of remnants of the missile X-1 which hit children's hospital in Kyiv during an emergency Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters. (Lev Radin/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
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In Diplomatic Quirk, Russia Chairs UN Meeting Decrying Its Strike on Ukraine Kids’ Hospital

 09 July 2024, US, New York: Ukraine's ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks while holding a photo of remnants of the missile X-1 which hit children's hospital in Kyiv during an emergency Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters. (Lev Radin/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
09 July 2024, US, New York: Ukraine's ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks while holding a photo of remnants of the missile X-1 which hit children's hospital in Kyiv during an emergency Security Council meeting at the United Nations Headquarters. (Lev Radin/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)

UN Security Council members confronted Russia on Tuesday over a missile strike the previous day that destroyed part of Ukraine's largest children's hospital, pouring out condemnations at an emergency meeting chaired by Moscow's own ambassador.

Russia denies responsibility for the strike at the hospital, where at least two staffers were killed.

France and Ecuador asked for the session at the Security Council, but Russia led it as the current holder of the council's rotating presidency, putting Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on the receiving end of the criticism.

"Mr. President, please stop this war. It has been going on for too long," Slovenian Ambassador Samuel Zbogar appealed.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told colleagues that they were there "because Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, current rotational president of the Security Council, attacked a children’s hospital."

"Even uttering that phrase sends a chill down my spine," she added.

Nebenzia characterized the slew of criticism as "verbal gymnastics" from countries trying to protect Ukraine's government. He reiterated Moscow's denials of responsibility for the hospital attack, insisting it was hit by a Ukrainian air defense rocket.

"If this had been a Russian strike, there would have been nothing left of the building," Nebenzia said, adding that "all the children and most of the adults would have been killed, and not wounded."

The strike on the Okhmatdyt children’s hospital was part of a massive daytime barrage in multiple cities, including the capital of Kyiv. Officials said at least 42 people were killed. The attack also damaged Ukraine's main specialist hospital for women and hit key energy infrastructure.

At Okhmatdyt, "the ground shook and the walls trembled. Both children and adults screamed and cried from fear, and the wounded from pain," cardiac surgeon and anesthesiologist Dr. Volodymyr Zhovnir told the Security Council by video from Kyiv. "It was a real hell."

Later, he heard people crying out for help from beneath the rubble. Most of the over 600 young patients had been moved to bomb shelters, except those in surgery, Zhovnir said. He said over 300 people were injured, including eight children, and two adults died, one of them a young doctor.

Acting UN humanitarian chief Joyce Msuya stressed to the Security Council that intentionally attacking a hospital is a war crime. She called Monday’s strikes "part of a deeply concerning pattern of systematic attacks harming health care and other civilian infrastructure across Ukraine."

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the UN World Health Organization has verified 1,878 attacks affecting health care facilities, personnel, transport, supplies and patients, she said.

Even against that backdrop, several council members pronounced Monday's strike shocking.

British Ambassador Barbara Woodward called it "cowardly depravity." Ecuadorian envoy José De La Gasca described it as "particularly intolerable." To Slovenia's Zbogar, it was "another low in this war of aggression."

Woodward and some others reiterated longstanding calls for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. But some nations with closer ties to Moscow continued to send a more muted message.

Chinese deputy Ambassador Geng Shuang, expressed concern about the loss of civilian lives and infrastructure but urged both sides to exercise "rationality and restraint" and "show political will, meet each other halfway and start peace talks."

Russia insists that it doesn’t attack civilian targets in Ukraine despite abundant evidence to the contrary, including in AP's reporting.

Earlier Tuesday in Geneva, Danielle Bell, who heads a UN team monitoring human rights in Ukraine, said the hospital likely was struck by a Russian Kh-101 cruise missile.

At the UN headquarters, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya showed the Security Council photos of what his country asserts were fragments showing the projectile's Russian origin, plus a map purportedly showing a missile's path from Russian territory and, via a sharp turn, to the children's hospital.

"Yesterday, Russia deliberately targeted perhaps the most vulnerable and defenseless group in any society: children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses," Kyslytsya said.

Kyslytsya, whose country isn’t on the 15-member council, blasted Nebenzia for occupying the president's seat after the bloodshed.

"In accordance with the traditions of the council presidency, and purely as the president of the council," Nebenzia drily replied, "I am compelled to thank Ukraine for their statement."



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : US, SKorea Sign Joint Nuclear Deterrence Guidelines in Face of NKorean Threats

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol attends a session of the NATO summit with Indo-Pacific Partners Thursday July 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol attends a session of the NATO summit with Indo-Pacific Partners Thursday July 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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US, SKorea Sign Joint Nuclear Deterrence Guidelines in Face of NKorean Threats

South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol attends a session of the NATO summit with Indo-Pacific Partners Thursday July 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol attends a session of the NATO summit with Indo-Pacific Partners Thursday July 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The US and South Korea signed joint nuclear deterrence guidelines for the first time, a basic yet important step in their efforts to improve deterrence toward North Korea's evolving nuclear threats.

Meeting Thursday on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Washington, President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol commended what they called “the tremendous progress” that their countries’ alliance have made a year after creating a joint Nuclear Consultative Group.

The two leaders authorized “the US-ROK Guidelines for Nuclear Deterrence and Nuclear Operations on the Korean Peninsula” that was signed by their defense officials earlier Thursday, according to South Korea’s presidential office. ROK stands for the Republic of Korea, South Korea’s official name.

Last year, the US and South Korea launched the consultative body to strengthen communication on nuclear operations and discuss how to integrate US nuclear weapons and South Korean conventional weapons in various contingencies. The US has long promised to use all its capabilities, including nuclear weapons, to defend South Korea if it is attacked, but faced suspicions that it lacks plans on how it would exercise its extended deterrence for its Asian ally.

The consultative body was established as North Korea has sharply accelerated its missile testing activities and openly threatened to use nuclear weapons preemptively in potential conflicts, The Associated Press reported. South Korea has no nuclear weapons.

“The presidents underscored that the Guidelines document provides a solid foundation for enhancing US-ROK extended deterrence cooperation in an integrated manner," said a joint statement by Biden and Yoon.