Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the United Nations on Tuesday to rally behind Kyiv and endorse its peace proposals to end Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia.
The speech comes as the approach of winter marks an end to Kyiv’s lagging counteroffensive and Zelenskyy works to ensure Ukraine’s allies continue supporting Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia’s invasion.
Zelenskyy opened his speech to the U.N. General Assembly by assailing Russia for its aggressive nuclear posture and stressing that Russia’s nuclear threats put global security at risk.
“History shows it was Russia who deserved nuclear disarmament the most back in the 1990s, and Russia deserves it now,” Zelenskyy declared. “Terrorists have no right to hold nuclear weapons.”
Zelenskyy further recounted alleged Russian atrocities in the conflict, including the forced deportations of thousands of Ukrainian children, and warned that Russia would not stop at Ukraine. He highlighted Moscow’s past military interventions in Moldova and Georgia, and Russia’s support of the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad during the country’s civil war.
“Each decade, Russia starts a new war,” Zelenskyy said. “Many seats in the General Assembly hall may become empty if Russia succeeds with its treachery and aggression.”
This was Zelenskyy’s first in-person appearance at the annual U.N. gathering since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
He came intent on courting as many countries from Latin America, Africa and Asia as possible to side with Ukraine against Russia.
Many of these countries have tried to stay neutral in the war, unwilling to anger Russia — and by extension China, which has backed Russia in the conflict.
Although many of the countries have signed on to past U.N. General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia’s aggression, they have not taken stronger moves, such as reducing purchases of Russian energy products or enforcing U.S. and European sanctions on the Kremlin.
That has kept the Russian economy afloat, undermining Ukraine’s chances of defeating the Kremlin.
Zelenskyy made overtures to some of these nations in his speech, focusing specifically on Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports and its manipulation of the global energy market.
Condemning Moscow’s decision to exit the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a Turkish-brokered deal which allowed shipments of Ukrainian grain to exit the Black Sea and reach the global food market, Zelenskyy said that Russia’s actions amounted to a “weaponization” of food.
Zelenskyy went on to highlight Ukraine’s formula for peace and called on the U.N. to “end the aggression” and reject “shady dealings.”
Zelenskyy also criticized Russia for “using energy as a weapon” and for its efforts to “turn other countries’ power plants into real dirty bombs,” pointing to Russia’s attacks on the Zaporizhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine last year.
Zelenskyy is expected to appear at a special U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Wednesday.
He will then head to Washington, where he will meet with members of Congress, military officials and President Joe Biden and his top aides.