MANHATTAN (CN) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged world leaders Tuesday not to abandon his country as U.S. President Joe Biden pushed to rally allies for continued assistance to combat Russia’s invasion.
Zelenskyy made an in-person plea to world leaders at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, calling for a hardline stance against Russia, giving fiery denunciations of “treachery and aggression.”
“We must act united to defeat the aggressor and focus all our capabilities and energies on addressing these challenges,” Zelenskyy said.
At least 62,000 people have been killed since Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
When fighting ends, it must come on Ukraine’s terms, Zelenskyy said, or Russia will be rewarded for military action. He is presenting a peace plan at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
“For the first time in modern history, we have a real chance to end the aggression on the terms of the nation which was attacked,” he said. “While Russia is pushing the world to the final war, Ukraine is doing everything to ensure that after Russian aggression, no one in the world will dare to attack any nation.”
Noting that Russia is not using weapons of mass destruction, Zelenskyy decried weaponization of food, energy and children for political leverage.
“There are many conventions that restrict weapons, but there are no real restrictions on weaponization,” he said.
Biden meanwhile urged the gathered countries to continue backing Ukraine’s war effort, which he said was vital to deter international aggression.
“If we abandon the core principles of the U.N. charter to appease an aggressor, can any member state feel confident that they are protected?” he said. “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?”
Biden and administration officials are using this month’s gathering of the U.N. to shore up support among allies for Ukraine. Some have worried NATO countries could grow weary of the cost as the fighting approaches a second anniversary with no end in sight.
Pulling assistance would play into Russia’s hands, Biden said, allow it to “brutalize Ukraine without consequence.”
Zelenskyy cautioned countries against “shady dealings behind the scenes” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Evil cannot be trusted. Ask Prigozhin if one bets on Putin’s promises,” he said, referring to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group paramilitary who was killed in a plane crash two months after launching a mutiny against Moscow.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is among many world leaders who have called Russia’s invasion a violation of the body’s charter.
“Ignoring global treaties and conventions makes us all less safe,” he said. “We must not relent in working for peace, a just peace.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda drew parallels between the war in Ukraine and the joint invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that marked the start of World War II. He decried Russia’s “barbarian actions” that have “birthed immense global problems.”
“World peace has never been as threatened as it is today,” Duda said. “We Poles know fully well that peace is not to be taken for granted.”
Brazil President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said the continuance of the war damages the U.N.’s credibility.
“The war in Ukraine exposes our collective inability to enforce the principles of the U.N. Charter,” he said.
Some leaders, like Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego, called for the U.N. to immediately launch a conference to negotiate peace. He criticized larger countries for perpetuating the war instead of investing in development.
“To meet sustainable development goals, all wars must be brought to an end,” he said through a translator. “But they’re helping to wage one war in particular.”
A representative of the Russian government, who is scheduled to give remarks to the U.N. on Saturday, mostly looked at his phone during Zelenskyy’s remarks.Follow @TheNolanStout
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