THE UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s president laid out a detailed case against Russia’s invasion at the United Nations and demanded punishment from world leaders in a speech just hours after Moscow made an extraordinary announcement that it would mobilize reservists for the war effort.
Buoyed by a counter-offensive that recaptured swathes of territory seized by the Russians, Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed in a video address Wednesday that his forces would not stop until they recovered all of Ukraine.
“We can return the Ukrainian flag throughout our territory. We can do it by force of arms,” the president said in a speech delivered in English. “But we need time.”
Video speeches of Zelenskyy in an olive green T-shirt have become almost commonplace. But this speech was one of the most anticipated at the UN General Assembly, where war dominated.
The conflict took center stage again on Thursday at a Security Council session, where the United States and its allies planned to step up criticism of Russia and urge other countries to join. to their strong condemnations of the conflict.
At a press conference ahead of the meeting, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said “no words of condemnation can stop the Russian military.”
“What can stop them is the Ukrainian army, equipped with modern weapons from our partners,” he said. “The best way to stop (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is to supply weapons to Ukraine.”
“And justice is one of those weapons,” said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
The war surfaced in the speeches of leaders around the world who lamented the invasion, particularly because they said it was inconsistent with fundamental United Nations principles, including respect for sovereignty.
“This is an attack on this very institution where we find ourselves today,” said Moldovan President Maia Sandu, whose country borders Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden’s speech also focused on the war in Ukraine.
“This war aims to extinguish Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, it should chill your blood,” he said. “If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we are jeopardizing everything that this very institution stands for. All.”
Russia has not yet had its turn to speak at the rally.
Putin, who is not attending the General Assembly, 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 – especially its eastern region of Donbass – from what he sees as Ukrainian government oppression; and restore what he sees as Russia’s historic territorial claims to the country.
Zelensky’s speech was notable for its context. It took place after the extraordinary mobilization announcement from Moscow. It was the first time Zelenskyy addressed the assembled world leaders since the invasion of Russia in February. And it wasn’t delivered from the podium where other presidents, prime ministers and monarchs speak – but rather via video after Zelenskyy got special permission not to come in person.
Putin’s Wednesday decree on mobilization was sparse on specifics. Officials said up to 300,000 reservists could be exploited. It was apparently an effort to seize the momentum after the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
But Russia’s first such call since World War II also brought the fighting home in a new way for Russians and risked stoking domestic anxiety and antipathy towards the war. Shortly after Putin’s announcement, flights out of the country quickly filled up and more than 1,000 people were arrested in rare anti-war protests across the country.
Zelenskyy did not discuss the developments in detail. But he implied that any Russian talk about the negotiations was just a delaying tactic and that Moscow’s actions spoke louder than its words.
“They talk about the talks but announce a military mobilization. They talk about the talks but announce pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine,” he said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, said the mobilization was a sign he was “failing and restless” in Ukraine.
Zelenskky 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 what he called a “terrorist state.”
Associated Press reporter Andrew Katell contributed from New York. For more AP coverage of the United Nations General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly