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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon and called out Russia for weaponizing everything, from food and energy to abducted children in its war against Ukraine.
“Mass destruction is gaining momentum,” Zelenskyy said. “The aggressor is weaponizing many other things and those things are used not only against our country, but against all of yours as well, fellow leaders.”
“When hatred is weaponized against one nation, it never stops there,” he said. “The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our lives, our resources into weapons ... against the international rules-based order.”
He pointed to the war’s effect on fuel and food supplies, and he highlighted what Ukraine says were at least tens of thousands of children taken from their families after Moscow’s invasion: “What will happen to them?”
“Those children in Russia are taught to hate Ukraine, and all ties with their families are broken. And this is clearly a genocide,” Zelenskyy said.
Warnings for neighboring countries
Zelenskyy warned again 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, reports Politico.
“Each decade Russia starts a new war. Parts of Moldova and Georgia remain occupied. Russia turned Syria into ruins. And if not Russia, the chemical weapons would have never been used there, in Syria.
“Russia has almost swallowed Belarus. It is obviously threatening Kazakhstan and other Baltic states. And the goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our lands, our people, our lives, our resources into a weapon against you.”
Zelenskyy told world leaders that Ukraine is standing in the gap. “Ukraine is doing everything to ensure that after Russian aggression, no one in the world will dare to attack any nation,” Reuters reported. “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 also reminded the world that “Ukraine gave up its third largest nuclear arsenal. The world then decided Russia should become a keeper of such power. Yet history shows it was Russia who deserved nuclear disarmament the most, back in the 1990s. And Russia deserves it now: terrorists have no right to hold nuclear weapons,” he said.
Shoring up support
This was Zelenskyy’s first in-person appearance at the annual U.N. gathering since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. It has been widely reported that one of the goals of appearing in-person is to rally support from fatigued allies.
Zelenskyy’s rare visit comes at an urgent moment in his efforts to maintain aid for Ukraine’s fight. There are increasing voices of concern among leaders of the Global South, reports The Washington Post, and among Republican lawmakers in Congress.
Zelenskyy is tuned in to the political winds in the United States. Earlier this month at a conference in Kyiv, he said that the future of the war in Ukraine hinges on the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
Earlier this morning, President Joe Biden told the U.N. General Assembly that the global community needed to remain united in support for Ukraine. “I ask you this: If we abandon the core principles of the United States to appease an aggressor, can any member state in this body feel confident that they are protected?” Biden said in his address. “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?”
He continued: “I’d respectfully suggest the answer is no.”
Zelenskyy is expected to appear at a special U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Wednesday, the same meeting where Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to appear.
Zelenskyy will then head to Washington, where he will meet with members of Congress, military officials and Biden and his top aides.
Russia will have a chance to address the General Assembly on Saturday, when Lavrov is expected to speak. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyansky sat in Russia’s seat during Zelenskyy’s speech Tuesday.
Holly Richardson is the editor of Utah Policy