U.N. votes to allow Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to give virtual speech

Visitors to the United Nations headquarters take photos at the General Assembly speaker’s podium ahead of the General Assembly on Friday.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly voted Friday to allow Ukraine’s president to deliver a pre-recorded address to next week’s gathering of world leaders because of his need to deal with Russia’s invasion, making an exception to its requirement that all leaders speak in person.

The 193-member world body approved Volodymyr Zelenskky’s virtual address by a vote of 101-7 with 19 abstentions including China. The seven countries voting “no” were Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia and Syria.

The assembly first voted on an amendment put forward by Belarus, a close ally of Russia, that would have allowed any leader facing exceptional difficulties and unable to attend to deliver a pre-recorded address. It was defeated by a vote of 23-67 with 27 abstentions.

The document that was approved expresses concern that leaders of “peace-loving“ U.N. sovereign nations can’t participate in person “for reasons beyond their control owing to ongoing foreign invasion, aggression, military hostilities that do not allow safe departure from and return to their countries, or the need to discharge their national defense and security duties and functions.”

The document, which was proposed by Ukraine and had more than 50 co-sponsors, permits Zelenskyy to submit a pre-recorded statement to be played in the General Assembly hall. It stresses that this will not set a precedent for future high-level assembly meetings.

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya expressed satisfaction that the assembly will have a chance to hear directly from Zelenskyy “about how he sees the end of this war and how he evaluates the impact of this war on global affairs and on the United Nations in particular.”