Zelenskyy: Russia doesn’t really want to end the war in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested on Wednesday that Russia’s decision to call up some reservists showed that Moscow was not serious about negotiating an end to its nearly seven-month war.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly meeting of world leaders via video hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement, Zelenskyy insisted his country would prevail in repelling the attack on the Russia and expelling its troops.
“We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do this by force of arms,” the president said. “But we need time.” Putin’s Wednesday decree on mobilization was sparse on specifics. Officials said up to 3,00,000 reservists could be exploited. It was apparently an effort to gain momentum after a Ukrainian counteroffensive this month recaptured swathes of territory the Russians had held.
But the first such call in Russia since World War II also brings the fighting home in a new way for Russians and risks stoking domestic anxiety and antipathy towards war. Shortly after Putin’s announcement, flights out of the country quickly filled up and hundreds of people were arrested during anti-war protests across the country.
A day earlier, Russian-controlled parts of eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans for referendums on Russian integration. Ukrainian leaders and their Western allies view the votes as illegitimate.
Zelenskyy did not discuss the developments in detail. But he hinted that any Russian talk about the negotiations is just a delaying tactic and that Moscow’s actions speak louder than its words.
“They talk about talks but announce military mobilization. They talk about talks but announce pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine,” he said.
Russia has not yet had its turn to speak at the rally.
Putin, who is not attending the event, said he sent his armed forces to Ukraine because of security risks to his country from what he sees as a hostile government in Kyiv; liberate Russians living in Ukraine – particularly in the eastern region of Donbass – from what he sees as the oppression of the Ukrainian government; and restore what he sees as Russia’s historic territorial claims to the country.
Zelenskyy’s speech was striking not only in content but also in context. It took place after the extraordinary announcement of the mobilization. It was the first time he had addressed the assembled world leaders since the invasion of Russia in February.
It was not delivered from the august rostrum where other presidents, prime ministers and monarchs speak – but rather via video from a nation at war after Zelenskyy was granted special permission not to come in person .
He appeared as he has in many previous video appearances – in an olive green T-shirt. He was seated at a table with a Ukrainian flag behind his right shoulder and a large image of the UN and Ukrainian flag behind his left shoulder.
The leader 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’s true. But Russia will not be able to stop the course of history,” he said, declaring that “humanity and international law are stronger” than this. which he called a “terrorist state”.
Presenting various “preconditions for peace” in Ukraine that sometimes reached broader prescriptions for improving the world order, he urged world leaders to strip Russia of its vote in international institutions and its veto in the Council. UN security forces, saying the aggressors must be punished and isolated. .
The fighting has already sparked moves against Russia in UN bodies, after Moscow was able to veto a demand to halt its attack on Ukraine days after it began.
The veto particularly angered a number of other countries and led to action in the expanded General Assembly, where resolutions are non-binding but there is no veto.
The assembly voted overwhelmingly in March to deplore Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, call for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all Russian forces, and urge the protection of millions of civilians. The following month, a smaller but still significant number of members voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.
Zelenskyy’s speech was one of the most eagerly awaited at a rally this year that focused on the war in his country. But it wasn’t the first time the first-term president had found himself in the spotlight at the assembly’s annual meeting.
At last year’s General Assembly, Zelenskyy memorably compared the UN to “a retired superhero who has long forgotten how great they were” as he reiterated his calls for action to confront Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatists.
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