Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged United Nations members to join his country in pushing back against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, warning they could be next and that the Kremlin’s war may not end with Ukraine’s borders.
Zelensky, wearing his army-green crew shirt and speaking from the podium of the general assembly, also warned of the threat of nuclear weapons in the war, saying the U.N. needed to stand up against Putin and Russia to protect the world from “the final war… after which no one would gather in the General Assembly Hall again.”
“While nukes remain in place, the mass destruction is gaining momentum,” said Zelensky. “The aggressor is weaponizing many other things and those things are used not only against our country, but against all of yours as well.
Zelensky’s speech followed an address by President Biden that also centered on the need for international action against Russia. Biden and Zelensky are both seeking to build continued international support for Kyiv amid fears of war fatigue in Europe and the United States, where Republicans in Congress remain divided over Ukraine.
The war is now in its 19th month, and the conflict has taken immense attention and resources from the U.S. and other advanced economies.
Global sanctions against Russia have disrupted global energy supplies and Moscow’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast has impacted global food supplies to some of the world's most populous and needy nations.
Zelensky argued that Putin is to blame for shifting international attention, necessarily, toward his country and away from other needs such as climate change.
“When islands and countries disappear underwater, and when tornadoes and deserts are spreading into new territories, and when all of this is happening, one unnatural disaster in Moscow, decided to launch a big war and killed tens of thousands of people,” he said. “We have to stop it. We must act united to defeat the aggressor.”
Cameras during Zelensky’s remarks at times turned on the Russian representative at the body, who appeared to take some notes before turning his attention to his cell phone for what seemed to be the remainder of the Ukrainian leader’s speech.
The Russian representative looked at his phone as Zelensky accused Russia of launching a new war each decade, noting various conflicts.
“Russia has almost swallowed Belarus. It is obviously threatening Kazakhstan and now the Baltic states. And the goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people our lives, our resources into our weapon against you again the international rules-based order,” he said.
Zelensky urged member states to join in on his proposal of a “peace formula,” that largely calls for Russia’s withdrawal from all of Ukraine’s territory, delivering justice for war crimes and guaranteeing the country’s security.
The Ukrainian president has held at least three meetings with leading supporters of Ukraine trying to gain support for the “peace formula,” most recently in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. That meeting was attended by representatives from China, India, South Africa and Brazil, key economic and diplomatic partners of Russia.
He urged U.N. member states to join in an as yet scheduled “global peace summit” to further stir support for his country.
“I invite all of you, all of you who do not tolerate any aggression, to jointly prepare for the summit,” he said.
“And I am aware of the attempts to make some shady dealings behind the scenes. Evil cannot be trusted. Ask Prighozin if one bets on Putin's promises,” Zelensky said, referring to the leader of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prighozin, a former ally of Putin’s who died last month in a mysterious plane crash.