Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenskyy is pictured on video screens as he delivers a recorded speech before the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, September 21, 2022.
Mike Segar | Reuters
UNITED NATIONS – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded in a UN address to world leaders on Wednesday that world leaders hold Russia responsible for the months-long attack on his country.
“Russia should pay for this war,” said Zelenskyy, calling for a UN special tribunal to “punish Russia”.
“We must finally recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism,” he said, repeating previous calls in the early days of the war.
Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska smiles during a standing ovation after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech via video during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York City, September 21, 2022.
Mike Segar | Reuters
Zelenskyy is the only leader to address the international forum in this way, an extraordinary exception that was put to a vote last week.
The 193-member world organization approved Zelenskky’s virtual comments by 101-7 votes, with 19 abstentions, including China. Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia and Syria were the seven countries that voted against Zelenskyy’s request.
During his remarks, the Ukrainian president called on those seven countries because they were “afraid of a video speech”.
A view of the 74th United Nations General Assembly on September 28, 2019 in New York City.
Kena Betancur | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Zelensky’s speech, which received nearly a minute of applause and a standing ovation, comes as the Russian war enters its eighth month and the Kremlin shows no sign of abandoning ambitions to erase Ukrainian sovereignty in order to conquer the Soviet empire. to recover.
“Nations of the world, Ukraine wants peace,” Zelenskyy said.
“Europe wants peace. The world wants peace. And we have seen who is the only one who wants war. There is only one entity among all UN member states who would now say if he could interrupt my speech, he would be happy with this war, his war,” he added, without mentioning Putin.
Zelenskyy described the mass graves uncovered in the recently recaptured city of Izium, in northeastern Ukraine.
“The bodies of women and men, children and adults, civilians and soldiers were found in 445 graves,” he said, adding that some were tied up and tortured before death. He described in eerie detail the body of a man, who was found castrated before he was murdered.
“Russia wants to spend the winter in the occupied territory of Ukraine and prepare for a new offensive: new Buchas, new Iziums,” he said, referring to mass executions and graves discovered in Bucha in April.
Two forensic technicians dig near a cross in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022.
Juan Barreto | AFP | Getty Images
The UN estimates that the war in Russia has so far claimed nearly 6,000 civilian lives and injured more than 8,600. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adds that the death toll in Ukraine is likely to be higher.
In addition, the conflict took another fearful turn on Wednesday morning when Putin expressed support for a referendum to decide whether four occupied regions of Ukraine would join Russia. The move is considered an attempt by the Kremlin to annex additional parts of its ex-Soviet neighbor. Voting can take place as early as this weekend.
Putin also ordered about 300,000 Russian military reservists to join the fight. The partial mobilization, Russia’s first since World War II, follows a series of stunning Ukrainian advances in recent days.
Ukrainian forces, equipped with a plethora of Western weapons, have made significant gains against the Kremlin’s mighty war machine.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the Kharkov region for the first time since Russia began its attacks on his country on February 24, in the Kharkov region of Ukraine on May 29, 2022. (Photo by Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images )
Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The United States has so far provided Kiev with a war chest worth more than $15 billion. Meanwhile, NATO allies have strengthened security across the region, taken in refugees and trained Ukrainian troops.
Read more: Biden calls on allied nations to step up support for Ukraine at UN General Assembly
Zelenskyy called for more weapons as his country wages an era-defining struggle for democratic principles and world order. He specifically asked for long-range weapons, heavy artillery and air defense systems.
He also asked for humanitarian and financial support and for help with reconstruction projects. The European Commission and the World Bank estimate that it will cost at least $349 billion to rebuild Ukraine after the war.
While nearly every leader who has stepped behind the famed speaker’s podium to address the international forum has condemned Russia for its continued attack, Zelenskyy urged leaders to publicly state where they stand on the war.
Without explicitly naming countries, the Ukrainian president criticized nations that have taken a neutral stance in light of the Russian war.
“They pretend to protect someone, but in reality they are only protecting their vested interests,” he said.