“Every decade, Russia starts a new war,” Zelensky said. “Many seats in the General Assembly Hall could become empty if Russia succeeds in its betrayal and aggression.”
Zelensky’s efforts are likely to resonate rhetorically with many of the officials gathered before him at the annual UN gathering of world leaders in New York. After all, many world leaders use their time at the podium to also denounce the domination of world powers.
But Zelensky’s calls are less likely to lead developing countries to take steps to isolate or even sideline Moscow in any meaningful way.
Too many countries have crucial economic and security relations with the Kremlin to simply walk away from them, even as they sign symbolic measures denouncing the war and repeatedly calling for a peace deal.
The fact that China is supporting Russia, at least diplomatically, in this war also makes these other countries think twice before abandoning Moscow or imposing Western sanctions against it.
This means that Russia may not feel enough financial hardship to leave Ukraine in the near future.
It was Zelensky’s first in-person appearance at the annual UN gathering since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. The Ukrainian president is also expected to appear at a special Security Council meeting on Wednesday. of the UN on Ukraine.
Zelensky, wearing his green military uniform and boots, opened his speech Tuesday by attacking Russia for its aggressive nuclear stance and emphasizing that Russia’s nuclear threats endanger global security.
“History shows that it was Russia that most deserved nuclear disarmament in the 1990s, and it deserves it today,” he said, referring to the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Ukrainian territory after the fall of the Soviet Union. “Terrorists have no right to possess nuclear weapons.”
Zelensky further recounted alleged Russian atrocities in the conflict, including the forced expulsions of thousands of Ukrainian children. He highlighted Moscow’s past military interventions in Moldova and Georgia, as well as Russia’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad during the Arab country’s civil war.
He warned that Russian aggression would not stop.
“This is a real chance for every nation to ensure that aggression against your state, if it occurs, God forbid, will end,” Zelensky said, “not because your territory will be divided and you will be forced to submit to military or political forces. pressure, but because your territory and your sovereignty will be fully restored.
Condemning Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the Black Sea Grains Initiative, an agreement that allowed shipments of Ukrainian agricultural products to leave the Black Sea and reach the global food market, Zelensky said the actions of the Russia amounted to a “militarization” of food.
Zelensky also criticized Russia for “using energy as a weapon” and for its efforts to “turn other countries’ power plants into real dirty bombs”, highlighting Russian attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine .
Divisions over the war were clearly visible in the audience for Zelensky’s speech. While delegates in attendance were mostly stoic upon hearing Zelenskyy speak, and Zelenskyy received several lines of applause, several sections of the sloping room were noticeably empty.
During much of Zelensky’s speech, only one Russian diplomat was visible at the country’s office in the General Assembly Hall, generally taking notes without any discernible facial reaction to Zelensky’s remarks.
The Ukrainian leader came to New York intending to court as many countries as possible in Latin America, Africa and Asia. His aides said he planned numerous meetings with officials from those countries.
Although many countries have signed UN General Assembly resolutions condemning Russian aggression, they have not taken more forceful measures, such as reducing purchases of Russian energy products or imposing US and European sanctions against the Kremlin.
Zelensky highlighted Ukraine’s 10-point peace formula and called on the UN to “end aggression” and reject “shady deals.” The latter appears to refer to Russia’s efforts to keep many developing countries on its side.
“Evil cannot be trusted,” warned the Ukrainian leader.
Zelensky will travel to Washington later this week, where he will meet with President Joe Biden, members of Congress and other senior officials.