In a surprise appearance before the UN Security Council, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for Russia to be punished as a “terrorist state”. Russia must be excluded from the Security Council, said Zelenskyj, who was connected via video to a meeting scheduled at short notice in New York on Tuesday. Fighting continued into Wednesday night. The Ukrinform news agency reported two rocket hits in the city of Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine. A fire broke out in the south of the city. Information about injuries and damage was not yet available.

The Ukrainian President accused Russia of targeting Ukrainian civilians after the shelling of a shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk that killed at least 20 people. “It is imperative to set up a tribunal to investigate everything that the Russian military has done against the Ukrainians,” said Zelenskyy.

In his subsequent daily video message, he repeated the allegations of terrorism against Russia. The attack on the shopping center was aimed at killing as many people as possible, Zelensky said. According to him, since the beginning of the war, Russia has fired 2,811 rockets at Ukrainian cities.

Russia reacted angrily to Zelenskyy’s appearance in the UN Security Council. This was put on the agenda at the last moment and not coordinated with all members, complained the deputy Russian ambassador to the UN, Dmitri Polyanski. The top Russian diplomat spoke of a violation of the usual practice of working in the UN Security Council.

Poljanski denied the accusation of an attack on civilian objects. The Russian military leadership had previously admitted the shelling of Kremenchuk, but at the same time denied having hit the shopping center. Rather, the “high-precision missiles” hit halls with ammunition and weapons from the USA and Europe. Army spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that it was only when they exploded that the fire started in the “shopping center that is no longer in operation”.

Meanwhile, the fighting in the east of the country continues with undiminished severity. Both sides are currently trying to gain control of an important supply route for the heavily contested former city of Lysychansk. According to their own statements, the Ukrainian military repelled a Russian advance on the village of Spirne along this road.

Lysychansk will continue to be constantly shelled with mortars and other artillery, the General Staff said. Russian troops are already on the southern outskirts of the city. Representatives of the pro-Russian separatists also reported fighting in the city. The connections to the neighboring Donetsk region have been under constant Russian fire for days.

Also unpleasant for Moscow: Sweden and Finland are approaching NATO accession. After Turkey had recently spoken out vehemently against the expansion of the military alliance to include the Nordic countries, it has now given in. “I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday evening after a meeting with Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and his Turkish colleague Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This sends a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that NATO’s door is open.

Shortly before the NATO summit Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda again insisted on a stronger NATO presence in the eastern alliance area. In view of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, the transition from deterrence to forward defense had to be completed at the top meeting in Madrid, Nauseda told the German Press Agency in an interview in Vilnius.

According to Eva Högl, the Bundestag Commissioner for the Armed Forces, the drastic increase in the rapid deployment force announced by NATO will put a heavy strain on the Bundeswehr. “It is foreseeable that the demands on Germany will increase. For the Bundeswehr, this means an enormous challenge and requires great efforts in terms of personnel, material, equipment and infrastructure,” Högl told the Augsburger Allgemeine. Against the background of the Ukraine war, NATO wants to increase the number of its rapid reaction forces from around 40,000 to more than 300,000.

Also read: The Ukraine update on June 28th