Ukraine’s President Volodimir Zelenskyy is pictured on video screens as he delivers a recorded address to the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York, September 21, 2022.
Mike Segar | Reuters
UNITED NATIONS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that global leaders hold Russia accountable for its monthslong assault on his nation.
Zelenskyy’s dramatic remarks to world leaders Wednesday afternoon at the U.N. came on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops for war.
Zelenskyy, who has not left his war-weary nation since Russia’s full-throttle invasion in February, appeared virtually after an introduction by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the 77th U.N. General Assembly.
Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska and Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal flanked Kuleba.
Zelenskyy is the only leader to address the international forum in this manner, an extraordinary exception that was held to a vote last week.
The 193-member world body approved Zelenskky’s virtual remarks by a 101-7 vote, with 19 abstentions including China. Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia and Syria were the seven countries that voted against Zelenskyy’s request.
During his remarks, the Ukrainian president called out those seven nations for being “afraid of a video address.”
A view of the 74th United Nations General Assembly on September 28, 2019 in New York City.
Kena Betancur | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Zelenskyy’s remarks come as Russia’s war enters its eighth month, and the Kremlin shows no signs of relinquishing ambitions to erase Ukrainian sovereignty in order to restore the Soviet empire.
The conflict escalated earlier Wednesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced referenda on whether to join Russia in four occupied regions of Ukraine. The move is believed to be a Kremlin attempt to annex additional swaths of its ex-Soviet neighbor. The votes could happen as soon as this weekend.
Putin also ordered approximately 300,000 Russian military reservists to join the fight. The partial mobilization, Russia’s first since World War II, follows a series of stunning Ukrainian advances in recent days.
Ukrainian forces, equipped with a plethora of Western weapons, have made significant gains against the Kremlin’s mighty war machine.
The United States has so far provided Kyiv a war chest worth more than $15 billion. Meanwhile, NATO allies have bolstered security throughout the region, taken in refugees and trained Ukrainian forces.
Zelenskyy called for more arms as his nation carries out an era-defining fight for democratic principles and global order.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the Kharkiv region for the first time since Russia started the attacks against his country on February 24, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine on May 29, 2022.(Photo by Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ukrainian Presidency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
While nearly every leader who has stepped behind the famed speaker’s rostrum to address the international forum has condemned Russia for its ongoing assault, Zelenskyy urged leaders to publicly establish where they stand on the war.
The U.N. estimates Russia’s war has so far claimed nearly 6,000 civilian lives and led to more than 8,600 injuries. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights adds that the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher.
Meanwhile, the European Commission and World Bank estimate that it will cost at least $349 billion to reconstruct Ukraine after the war.