Ukraine’s Zelenskyy exposes his case against Russia to the UN

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Ukraine’s president presented a detailed case against Russia’s invasion of the United Nations and demanded punishment from world leaders in a speech delivered just hours after Moscow made an extraordinary announcement that it would mobilize some reservists for the war effort.

Fueled by a counter-offensive that retaken swathes of territory the Russians took, Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised in a video speech on Wednesday that his forces would not stop until they had regained all of Ukraine.

“We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms,” the president said in a speech delivered in English. “But we need time.”

Zelenskyy’s video speeches in an olive green T-shirt have become almost commonplace. But this speech was one of the most anticipated at the UN General Assembly, where war dominated.

The topic appeared in speeches by leaders around the world who deplored the invasion, mainly because they said it was not consistent with fundamental principles of the United Nations – including respect for sovereignty.

“It is an attack on this very institution where we find ourselves today,” said the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, whose country borders Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden’s speech also focused heavily on the war in Ukraine.

“This war is to extinguish Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, pure and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe in, it should make your blood run cold,” he said. “If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we jeopardize everything this institution stands for. All.”

War will remain front and center at Thursday’s meeting, when the Security Council plans to address the issue.

Russia has not yet had its turn to speak at the meeting.

Putin, who is not present at the General Assembly, said he sent his armed forces to Ukraine because of risks to his country’s security from what he considers a hostile government in Kyiv; to free Russians living in Ukraine – especially in the eastern region of Donbass – from what he sees as the oppression of the Ukrainian government; and to restore what he considers to be Russia’s historic territorial claims over the country.

Zelenskyy’s speech was distinguished by its context. It happened after Moscow’s extraordinary mobilization announcement. It was the first time Zelenskyy had addressed the assembled world leaders since the Russian invasion in February. And it wasn’t delivered on the rostrum where other presidents, prime ministers and monarchs speak — but on video after Zelenskyy was given special permission not to appear in person.

Putin’s decree on Wednesday on the mobilization was sparse in detail. Officials said up to 300,000 reservists could be called up. Apparently, it was an effort to seize the moment after the Ukrainian counter-offensive.

But the first such call-up in Russia since World War II also brought fighting home in a new way for Russians and risked stoking domestic anxiety and antipathy toward the war. Shortly after Putin’s announcement, flights out of the country were quickly filled and more than 1,000 people were arrested in rare anti-war demonstrations across the country.

Zelenskyy did not discuss the developments in detail. But he suggested that any Russian talk of negotiations was just a delaying tactic, and that Moscow’s actions speak louder than his words.

“They talk about negotiations, but they announce military mobilization. They talk about negotiations but announce pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine,” he said.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the mobilization was a sign that Ukraine is “failing and failing”.

Zelenskky said Moscow wanted to spend the winter preparing its forces in Ukraine for a new offensive, or at least preparing fortifications while mobilizing more troops in Europe’s biggest military conflict since World War II.

“Russia wants war. It is true. But Russia will not be able to stop the course of history,” he said, declaring that “humanity and international law are stronger” than what he called a “terrorist state”.


Associated Press journalist Andrew Katell contributed from New York. For more UN General Assembly AP coverage, visit

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at

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