UNITED NATIONS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared grim and at times angry in a scathing speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan on Tuesday, as he sought to shore up support for his country’s war effort. country and to demand that Russia be punished for the invasion. .
Dressed in his trademark green fatigues on the dais at the front of the room, Zelenskyy frowned as he called on other countries to recognize that Russia was not just a threat to Ukraine – but to the entire world. He called on other countries to help hold the line against Moscow as “mass destruction grows.”
“While Russia is pushing the world towards final war, Ukraine is doing everything to ensure that after Russian aggression, no one will dare to attack any nation,” Zelensky said.
“We must be united to achieve this, and we will,” he added.
“We must be united to achieve this, and we will. »
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Zelensky accused the Kremlin of threatening and endangering the sovereignty of many of its neighbors and other countries beyond Ukraine. He discussed Russia’s occupation of Georgian and Moldovan territories, its costly military efforts in Syria and how it controls Belarus.
Moscow also threatened the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and worsened energy and food insecurity by bombing Ukrainian ports to sow discord locally and internationally, Zelenskyy argued.
“The goal of the current war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our lives, our resources into a weapon against you, against the rules-based international order,” he said.
The speech marks a change from the pre-recorded speech he gave to the UN last year, when he stayed in kyiv to highlight Ukrainian resistance. It appears that Ukraine may have hoped to leverage Zelensky’s growing global celebrity to deepen international dialogue with the countries in attendance, and it worked as many diplomats and leaders took photos of the young Ukrainian president, a former television actor, as he spoke.
Zelensky’s physical presence at the UN on Tuesday demonstrated a more direct diplomatic approach with allies, partners and other major world governments, such as India and Brazil, which have remained largely on the sidelines of the conflict.
Prioritized by UN members, Zelensky was the twelfth world leader to speak on Tuesday. He finally took the stage after more than five hours of speeches by nine presidents, the king of Jordan and the emir of Qatar.
Zelensky sat in the aisle on the right side of the room with his colleagues to listen to speeches from other leaders. Andriy Yermak, a key part of Ukraine’s diplomatic and public messaging efforts who heads Zelenskyy’s office, sat next to him, while Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba sat nearby. Before the speeches began at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, many officials and leaders came to talk to the Ukrainian president and shake his hand.
The US delegation – which included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry – was seated at the adjacent desk.
Zelensky appeared stern as President Joe Biden spoke at the United Nations on Tuesday. The US president’s speech devoted very little time to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the challenges facing the Eastern European country – a departure from last year’s speech – even though Biden clearly placed responsibility for the war on the Kremlin.
“Only Russia has the power to immediately end this war and it is Russia alone that stands in the way of peace,” he said.
“If we allow Ukraine to be divided, is the security of a nation assured? » Biden added, earning his first round of applause from the audience.
Most leaders who spoke at U.N. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan before Ukraine’s president acknowledged that the world was facing the greatest number of violent conflicts since World War II — although only some of them directly addressed Russia’s war in Ukraine. Most speeches placed greater emphasis on the challenges of climate change, increasing income inequality and poverty, evolving refugee crises and the need for deeper international dialogue to promote peace.
While emphasizing the need for peace, Zelensky warned that world leaders should not believe in Russian leadership. He also said he was aware that some countries were trying to make behind-the-scenes deals with the pariah state.
“Evil cannot be trusted. Ask Prigozhin if we bet on Putin’s promises,” he said, referring to Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash after launching a rebellion against Russian President Vladimir Poutine.
Zelensky is expected to address the UN Security Council on Wednesday. The Ukrainian leader said during his speech that he intended to present at Wednesday’s meeting his country’s peace plan, which has been approved by most countries at the UN. It is likely the first time Ukrainian and Russian diplomats will sit at the same table since negotiations broke down at the start of the war more than 18 months ago.
He will also meet with Biden at the White House, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon and members of the Senate at the Capitol on Thursday.
Many disagreements remain on Capitol Hill over the White House’s request for additional aid to Ukraine. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are trying to avoid a government shutdown while extending U.S. military support to Kiev, a difficult task, while appeasing hard-liners within the conference who oppose the aid to Ukraine and want to reduce public spending.
The trip to Washington is likely aimed at countering these conservative voices and ensuring that Ukraine’s greatest benefactor continues to provide military and humanitarian support.
The Ukrainian president began his visit to the United States on Monday. He met with wounded Ukrainian soldiers at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, where 18 service members who lost limbs in the war have been treated since March. Zelensky thanked the wounded and their doctors and told the soldiers to “stay strong.”
“We will be waiting for you all at home,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “We absolutely need each and every one of you. »