Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged a global front against Russian aggression in a dramatic speech delivered Tuesday during the UN General Assembly – his first in-person address to the global body since Russia’s 2022 invasion.
“The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our lands, our people, our resources into a weapon against you, against the international rules based order,” Zelensky said. “Many seats in the General Assembly hall may become empty if Russia succeeds with its treachery and aggression.”
Hailed with vigorous applause when he took the stage, Zelensky used his 15 minutes to accuse Russian leaders of terrorism and genocide, citing in particular the removal of Ukrainian children from the country.
Ukraine has long accused Russia of forcibly deporting Ukrainian children from occupied areas – allegations which form the basis of an international war crimes arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some Russian officials have admitted the practice, publicly boasting about their efforts to bring children to Russia, place them in Russian families and, in some cases, give them Russian passports.
Zelensky also said the country was weaponizing the global food trade, after revival of the Black Sea grain deal failed, and of “turning other countries’ power plants into real dirty bombs.”
“Weaponization must be restrained, war crimes must be punished, deported people must come back home, and the occupier must return to their own land. We must be united to make it and we’ll do it,” he said.
In a warning to other nations over “shady” cooperation with Russia, the Ukrainian president also invoked the death of Russian Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin last month.
“I am aware of their attempts to make some shady dealings behind the scenes. Evil cannot be trusted. Ask Prigozhin if one bets on Putin’s promises,” he said.
The Russian representative in the General Assembly hall was shown on UN cameras taking notes and checking his phone throughout the speech.
Zelensky is expected to meet with US President Joe Biden and travel to Washington later this week.