Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday urged world leaders to deprive Russia of its vote in international institutions and the veto of the UN Security Council, stating that the attackers must be punished and isolated.
Zelenskyy began his long-awaited video speech at the UN General Assembly hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to promote his war against Ukraine.
While Zelenskyy still had to deal with development, he said that “a crime has been committed against Ukraine and we have called for a just punishment”, establishing five non-negotiable conditions for peace between the two countries.
These, he said, should include banning Russia from voting in international bodies and exercising the Security Council veto.
“As long as the aggressor is part of the decision-making process in international organizations, he must be isolated from them,” Zelenskyy said.
Among the other conditions he established were the restoration of the security of Ukraine and guarantees on territorial integrity and security.
His speech received a standing ovation that lasted almost a minute inside the General Assembly Hall.
War dominates the United Nations meeting
Russia has not yet had its turn to speak at the rally. Putin claimed to have sent his armed forces to Ukraine because of the security risks of his he country stemming from what he considers to be a hostile government in Kiev; to free the Russians living in Ukraine, especially his eastern Donbas region, from what he sees as the oppression of the Ukrainian government; and to restore what he considers to be Russia’s historic territorial claims on the country.
War has dominated the global rally, which comes nearly seven months after Russia launched what has become Europe’s largest military conflict since World War II.
In a reflection of the circumstances, Zelenskyy was not at the August stand where other presidents, prime ministers and monarchs speak at the most important annual meeting in international diplomacy. Instead, he got an exception for speaking on video.
As a permanent member of its most powerful entity, the Security Council, Russia was able to veto the call to stop its attack on Ukraine just days after it began.
But the move has angered a number of other countries and led to action this spring in the larger General Assembly, where resolutions are not binding but there are no vetoes.
The assembly voted overwhelmingly in March to deplore Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, demand an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Russian forces, and urge the protection of millions of civilians. The following month, the members, a smaller but still significant number of members, voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.
Putin mobilizes the reservists
Putin’s decree on partial mobilization on Wednesday was lacking in detail. Officials said up to 300,000 reservists could be intercepted.
It’s an apparent effort to gain momentum after a Ukrainian counter-offensive this month recaptured areas of territory that the Russians had held. But the first such call to Russia since World War II also brings home fighting in a way new to Russians and risks fueling domestic anxiety and antipathy towards war.
Shortly after Putin’s announcement, flights out of the country quickly filled up as people rushed to book one-way tickets and prices soared. Hundreds of people were arrested in anti-war demonstrations across the country.
The day before, the Russian-controlled parts of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans for referendums to become part of Russia. Ukrainian leaders and their Western allies consider the votes illegitimate.
Zelenskyy’s speech was one of the most anticipated in a meeting that this year focused on the war in his country. But it was not the first time that the president in his first term was in the spotlight of the United Nations.
At last year’s General Assembly meeting, Zelenskyy memorably compared the United Nations to “a retired superhero who has long forgotten how big they once were” as he repeated calls for action to confront Russia over annexation. in 2014 of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and its support for separatists.