Russia must be punished for its “illegal war” against Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday – part of a “peace formula” that also calls for greater civilian protection and defense support.
“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” he said in a pre-recorded message to world leaders.
“The crime was committed against our State borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people. The crime was committed against the dignity of our women and men. The crime was committed against the values that make you and me a community of the United Nations.”
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, Heads of State and Government are once again back in New York for their annual debate.
Last week, UN Member States met to vote on allowing Mr. Zelenskyy to deliver his speech via video instead of in-person.
Speaking in English, the President outlined a peace formula that punishes aggression, protects life, restores security and territorial integrity, guarantees security, and highlights the importance of determination.
He stressed that it does not include neutrality.
“Those who speak of neutrality, when human values and peace are under attack, mean something else,” he said. “They sympathize only for protocol. And that is why they pretend to protect someone, but in reality, they protect only their vested interests.”
Special tribunal and sanctions
President Zelenskyy said not only can the peace formula work for Ukraine, “but for anyone who may find themselves in similar circumstances as we did.”
Punishment for the crime of aggression includes implementing sanctions, such as trade and travel bans.
“A Special Tribunal should be created to punish Russia for the crime of aggression against our State. This will become a signal to all ‘would-be’ aggressors, that they must value peace or be brought to responsibility by the world,” he said.
“We have prepared precise steps to establish such a Tribunal. They will be presented to all States. Ukraine will appeal to the UN General Assembly to support an international compensation mechanism.”
Appeal for weapons
On protection, the President referred to Ukrainian cities such as Izyum and Bucha, where hundreds of bodies were discovered.
“The only thing that differs the mass burial in Izyum from what the world saw in Bucha is, in fact, the burial. The Russian army was in Izyum for a longer time, and therefore the bodies of the killed people were buried, and not scattered on the streets,” he said.
Protecting citizens and liberating territory requires weapons, and Mr. Zelenskyy appealed for support.
“For us, this is a war for life,” he said. “That is why we need defense support – weapons, military equipment and shells. Offensive weapons, a long-range one is enough to liberate our land, and defensive systems, above all, air defense. And we need financial support – to keep internal stability and fulfill social obligations to our people.”
Undermining global safety
Turning to his third point of restoring security and territorial integrity, Mr. Zelenskyy spoke of how the war has undermined global safety. It has affected food and energy security, and even maritime and radiation safety, among other areas.
The President thanked the UN Secretary-General for his engagement in getting Ukrainian agricultural products back onto international markets, with nearly 30 countries so far benefiting.
“We have to increase the supply by sea, both under market conditions and within the UN (World) Food Programme, for which Ukraine is always a reliable partner,” he said.
“Despite all the difficulties caused by the war, we decided to provide humanitarian aid to Ethiopia and Somalia, so we will send them an additional amount of our wheat.”
Against ‘energy blackmailing’
However, Mr. Zelenskyy acknowledged that security is more difficult, pointing to a missile attack at the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant on the eve of the General Assembly.
He also recalled the situation at the embattled Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant “which Russia has turned into a target”, adding “and that makes all of you a target.”
To counter the global cost-of-living crisis, the President called for removing “Russian energy blackmailing”, which he identified as the main factor behind price turbulence.
“It is necessary to cap the prices at which Russia exports its energy resources. It is necessary to make Russian oil and gas just ordinary goods again,” he said.
“Currently, oil and gas are Russia’s energy weapons. And that is why it manipulates the markets so that electricity, gas, petrol and diesel become the privilege of few instead of being a common good available to all.”
Mr. Zelenskyy also said the international community “must finally recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism” and warned that “when one country tries to steal the territory of another State, it puts all world nations under attack.”
The peace formula includes proposals for upgrades to the “security architecture” through legally binding multilateral and bilateral treaties. The plans are already being presented to partners.
“These are the conditions for the guarantors to act, and the timeline for their actions to bring results – results on land, at sea and in the air; in diplomacy and politics, in economy and finance, in providing weapons and intelligence.”
President Zelenskyy concluded by thanking the 101 countries out of the 193 UN Member States who voted in favour of allowing him to deliver the video address .
He noted that only seven countries voted against the measure: Belarus, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Russia, and Syria.
“If this coalition is against our determination, then I congratulate you all,” he said. “Because this means that peace will prevail over any aggression, and that there is no obstacle for us to implement the peace formula.”