The United States and Europe on Monday urged Russia to stop alleged sexual violence by its army and proxies in Ukraine, allegations that Moscow denounced as “lies”. The pleas were made during a meeting of the UN Security Council, organised by Albania, which currently holds the rotating presidency.

“It is on Russia to stop rape, violence, and atrocities from within its ranks. It is on Russia to end this unconscionable, unprovoked war on the people of Ukraine, and we call on the Russian Federation to do just that,” said US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

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European Council President Charles Michel denounced “atrocities” by Russia.

“These crimes must be and will be punished. To hold accountable those who are responsible, we need evidence and we are now helping to collect the evidence of these crimes,” he said.

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He further said that Moscow was “solely responsible” for a food crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

The accusation led Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, to leave the chamber and be replaced with a deputy.

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Earlier, Nebenzia had denied alleged sexual abuses committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

“The accusations of sexual violence against the Russian army have become repetitive… but no proof has been provided,” he said.