Zelensky drew applause as he took his place at the United Nations General Assembly lectern in New York, sporting a signature olive green shirt for his first in-person appearance at the annual UNGA since Russia invaded his country in 2022.
“Ukraine is doing everything to ensure that after Russian aggression, no one in the world will dare to attack any nation,” he said.
“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 accused Russia of manipulating global food markets to seek international recognition of ownership of land it seized from Kyiv.
He said Moscow was committing genocide by kidnapping Ukrainian children, adding: “Those children in Russia are taught to hate Ukraine and all ties with their families are broken. And this is clearly a genocide when hatred is weaponized against one nation”.
In a nod to the Global South, whose support he is seeking in his standoff with Russia, Zelensky spoke about the worsening climate crisis and natural disasters, mentioning the recent earthquake in Morocco and floods in Libya.
“We have to stop it. We must act united to defeat the aggressor and focus all our capabilities and energy on addressing these challenges,” he told the General Assembly.
He spoke after US President Joe Biden also appealed to world leaders to stand with Ukraine against Russia.
Biden told delegates: “Russia believes that the world will grow weary and allow it to brutalize Ukraine without consequence.
“If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?”
Biden has faced criticism from some Republicans who want the United States to spend less money on the war effort with former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, vowing to seek a quick end to the war if returned to power.
In his speech, Biden argued Russia’s February 2022 invasion and occupation of territory violated the founding UN Charter, a main principle of which is respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Biden echoed remarks of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who in his opening speech on Tuesday said Russia’s invasion “has unleashed a nexus of horror.”
Russia alone is standing in the way of a resolution, Biden argued, saying Moscow’s price for peace was “Ukraine’s capitulation, Ukraine’s territory and Ukraine’s children.”
“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.
He implored the leaders to stand up to “this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow.”
A Biden administration official said Biden and US officials would also focus at the UN meetings on mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development and fighting climate change.
President Zelensky is expected to visit Biden at the White House on Thursday and to meet some congressional leaders as well.
The United States is preparing a new military aid package for Ukraine to coincide with Zelensky’s visit, and Congress has been asked to approve billions of dollars more in security assistance for the rest of the year.
“We have confidence that there will be bipartisan support for this. I think President Zelensky does as well,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.