• Reuters

At UN, Ukraine’s Zelenskiy Seeks to Shore Up Support against Russia

REUTERS/Mike Segar
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses the United Nations Security Council while sitting next to Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a ministerial level meeting of the Security Council on the crisis in Ukraine at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 20, 2023.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, appearing in-person at the United Nations Security Council for the first time since Russia’s invasion, sought to shore up support for Kyiv’s right to defend itself during a contentious meeting on Wednesday.

While the council meeting put Zelenskiy at the same table as Russian diplomats, he did not cross paths with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Zelenskiy sat through the meeting’s first hour and left before the arrival of Russia’s top diplomat, who only entered the chamber to make a lengthy statement and then left.

“Ukraine exercises its right to self-defense,” Zelenskiy told the 15-member council, dressed in his signature army green.

“Helping Ukraine with weapons in this exercise, by imposing sanctions and exerting comprehensive pressure on the aggressor, as well as voting for relevant resolutions, would mean helping to defend the U.N. Charter,” he added.

Ukraine and Western countries have successfully isolated Russia diplomatically at the U.N., where the 193-member General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted several times to condemn the invasion and demand Moscow withdraw its troops.

Their argument: Russia has violated the 1945 U.N. Charter.

But Lavrov accused Western states of being selective in their use of the U.N. Charter, using it on “a case-by-case basis exclusively based on their parochial geopolitical needs.”

“This has resulted in a shaking of global stability as well as the exacerbation and the fomenting of new hotbeds of tension – risks of global conflict have heightened,” Lavrov said.

Zelenskiy noted the deadlock of the U.N. Security Council on Ukraine, which has met on Ukraine dozens of times since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, but has been unable to take any action because Russia is a veto power.

“It is impossible to stop the war because all efforts are vetoed by the aggressor,” Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy also spoke about an issue important to many U.N. members, particularly developing countries of the Global South – reform of the world body, specifically expansion of the Security Council.

“We need to act now. Our aspiration for peace should drive the reform,” Zelenskiy said.

‘STOP THE WAR’

Zelenskiy’s visit to the United Nations, where he addressed the General Assembly on Tuesday, coincided with a pivotal moment for Ukraine’s military campaign to eject Russian forces from Ukraine.

Public enthusiasm for the war effort is waning in many NATO countries, Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive has hit stubborn Russian defenses and soon colder, wetter weather will make many rural roads impassable for heavy vehicles.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council on Wednesday that Russia’s war in Ukraine “is aggravating geopolitical tensions and divisions, threatening regional stability, increasing the nuclear threat, and creating deep fissures in our increasingly multipolar world.”

Before the meeting started, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia objected to Zelenskiy addressing the council, which is chaired by Albania for September, before the 15 members.

“I want to assure our Russian colleagues and everyone here that this is not a special operation by the Albanian presidency,” Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama told Nebenzia. “There is a solution for this. If you agree, you stop the war and President Zelenskiy will not take the floor.”

Russia has said it is carrying out a “special military operation” in Ukraine because that country’s ambitions to integrate with the West – including NATO – pose a threat to Russia’s national security.

On Thursday, Zelenskiy heads to Washington to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden, members of Congress and military officials to urge continued support for its war effort.

While a majority in Congress still support supplying military aid to Ukraine, skeptical voices among Republicans are growing louder as the war’s cost rises.

Biden plans to announce a new military aid package during Zelenskiy’s visit. In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Biden appealed to world leaders to stand with Ukraine against Russia, saying only Moscow has the power to end the war.