Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that Russia be punished for attacking his country and assured the world that his military could drive out the invaders in a passionate address that drew a standing ovation from the U.N. General Assembly.
Zelenskyy, speaking remotely and in English on Wednesday, said Russia committed crimes against the "values that make you and me a community" in the U.N. He described grisly scenes found at hundreds of graves with men, women and children, some bound and tortured.
He dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim of a willingness to negotiate an end to the 7-month-old war.
"They talk about the talks, but they announce military mobilization," he said. "They talk about the talks but announce pseudo referendums in the occupied territories."
He also urged the world to provide him more weapons, saying his military can drive out Russian occupiers.
"Russia will never be able to stop the course of history," he said. "Mankind and international law are stronger than one terrorist state. Russia will be forced to end this war."
MBIDEN SAYS PUTIN WAS 'RECKLESS': Putin's veiled nuclear threat; 2 Americans captured in war freed: Updates
Other major developments:
►Russia has given its formal diplomatic approval to Lynne Tracy's appointment as the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Thursday. President Joe Biden announced her nomination Tuesday; she will need Senate approval.
►Voting begins Friday on referendums in Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine, a precursor to Russian annexation.
►In the Donetsk province, one of the areas where referendums are scheduled, city Mayor Alexei Kulemzin said at least five people where killed Thursday when Ukrainian shelling hit a covered market and a passenger minibus.
In one ex-Russian media outlet, a skeptical view of Putin's pitch
The spinoff from a shuttered independent Russian website Novaya Gazeta took a skeptical view of Russian leader Vladimir 'Putin's partial mobilization announcement. Novaya Gazeta Europe said the prices for tickets to countries not requiring visas jumped significantly and were "completely gone" by Wednesday night. And it noted that statements by various authorities on how partial mobilization will take place in practice were "very contradictory and sometimes did not coincide with reality."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refuted the outlet's report that a hidden article of Russia's mobilization order allows for drafting up to 1 million reservists into the army. Authorities have put the number at 300,000.
Novaya Gazeta was shut down in March, days after the war began. Novaya Gazeta Europe began publishing in April, based in Riga, Latvia.
Ukraine economy teeters under strain of war
A top Ukrainian government economist says the war has created a severe financial burden requiring help from other countries to resolve. Prewar forecasts of 3-4% economic growth in 2022 have also been dashed, and gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 30-40% this year, Ukraine was the poorest in country in Europe by most measures even before the war.
Oleg Ustenko, chief economic adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also said the speed of victory will depend on the pressure Ukraine's allies place on Russia. Ustenko told The Associated Press that it was "ridiculous" for European countries to keep paying for Russian fossil fuels. He called for an EU oil embargo to be brought forward and a price cap imposed on Russian gas.
G7 nations blast Putin for 'escalatory steps'
The Group of Seven (G7) nations will not recognize the referendums that Russia is preparing to hold in the occupied territories of Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday. The G7 members will also "pursue further targeted sanctions" on Russia if the referendums take place, she said.
G7 ministers - representing Canada, the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom - said in a statement that the voting can't be "free and fair" with Russian soldiers present. The minsters "deplored deliberate Russian escalatory steps, including the partial mobilization of reservists and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric."
Captured Americans released in prisoner exchange
Two Americans fighting for Ukraine have been freed in a prisoner exchange after being captured in June in the Kharkiv region, but high-profile Americans Brittney Griner and businessman Paul Whelan remain in Russian custody. Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and fellow Alabaman Alexander Drueke, 39, were released to Saudi Arabia, which brokered a swap with Russian-backed separatists that included the release of eight other prisoners from four countries. The deal was part of a larger swap included in the release of 200 Ukrainian fighters.
Huynh's fiancé, Joy Black, told USA TODAY she got a surprise call from the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia while at work Wednesday alerting her that Huynh was there. She got to speak with Huynh, who told her he'll go through medical checks before flying home.
"He said that he's OK and he's safe and healthy," said Black, adding she was "very thankful" and "happy for the first time in, like, four months."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine live updates: Zelenskyy says Russia will be forced to end war