Zelenskyy to address UN meeting — on video from Ukraine
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — With his nation at war, the president of Ukraine turns to the world once again Wednesday, addressing leaders at the U.N. General Assembly via video link hours after Russia announced a partial mobilization of its military to make more resources available for the conflict.
The assembly voted to allow Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be the only leader to deliver a virtual address so he could deal with the seven-month war that has followed Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. Russia opposed the exemption. Zelenskyy was scheduled to speak during Wednesday’s afternoon and evening.
U.S. President Joe Biden, addressing the world body earlier in the day, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “shamelessly” disregarding the U.N. Charter’s demands to solve disputes peacefully and respect the sovereignty of all nations. He reiterated that the United States will stand with Ukraine and denounced Putin’s new nuclear threats against Europe.
Another of the most closely watched speakers Wednesday morning, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, insisted his country is serious about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with six major powers. But he questioned whether Iran could trust the United States, pointing to former president Donald Trump’s withdrawal in 2018.
“While today, they speak of observing their commitments to this deal, they keep repeating the same old stories of the past which puts a great deal of doubt on their true commitment to return to this agreement,” Raisi said. “Which brings us to another challenge: Can we truly trust, without guarantees and assurances, that they will this time live up to their commitment?”
Iran’s president has said he has no plans to meet with Biden on the sidelines of the U.N. event.
Unsurprisingly, Ukraine has been the center of attention at the assembly, with leader after world leader condemning Russia for attacking a sovereign nation. The war, which has already killed thousands, is driving up food prices around the globe while also causing energy costs to soar — a particularly worrisome issue heading into the winter. It has also raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe at Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Ukraine’s now Russia-occupied southeast.
On Wednesday, Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists in Russia. His move risks being deeply unpopular and follows a string of humiliating setbacks for his troops nearly seven months after invading Ukraine.
At the United Nations, where peace and dialogue are cornerstone principles, leaders from many countries are trying to prevent a wider conflict and restore peace in Europe. Diplomats, though, aren’t expecting any breakthroughs this week at the United Nations, where nearly 150 leaders are addressing each other and the world.
“Helping Ukraine to protect itself was not only the right choice to make,” said Mario Draghi, Italy’s premier. “It was the only choice consistent with the ideals of justice and fraternity that underlie the United Nations Charter and the resolutions that this Assembly has adopted since the beginning of the conflict.”
Biden’s address, too, focused heavily on the war in Ukraine, where the country’s troops in recent weeks have retaken control of large stretches of territory in the northeast, but there are no signs of an end to the conflict.
“This war is about extinguishing 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, that should make your blood run cold,” he said. “If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for. Everything.”
But even as Ukrainian forces have racked up battlefield wins, much of Europe is feeling painful blowback from economic sanctions levied against Russia to punish Moscow for its invasion.
Biden pledged a new $2.9 billion in global food security aid to address shortages caused by the war in Ukraine and addressed issues on the front-burner for many other countries as well as the United States — among them climate change, fighting diseases, nuclear arms control, and flashpoints ranging from Venezuela to Ethiopia to Taiwan.
Other leaders also brought their concerns and priorities to the yearly assemblage.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, now nearing the end of his second four-year term as the country’s democratically elected president, noted how the world had changed since he was the military head of state in 1984 — but how some challenges remain.
The world is now “more severely tested” by new global challenges, he said, including conflicts driven by groups other than nations, the proliferation of small arms, terrorism, climate change and economic disparity.
Buhari said the war in Ukraine is the latest challenge to the United Nations’ guiding principles promoting peace and security, development and human rights. He warned that it could hinder the ability of nations to work together to resolve conflicts elsewhere, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Mongolian President Khurelsukh Ukhnaa never mentioned the war in Ukraine but said economic restrictions and sanctions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical conflicts “have hit hard the national economies.” He noted sharply increased prices for food, fuel, agricultural and energy raw materials.”
Ukhnaa said the whole world is going through “hard times.”
If the $2.1 trillion in world military expenditures in 2021 was spent to help the least-developed and developing countries, he asked, “How many millions of children’s future would have been brighter? How many millions would have been lifted out of poverty? How many millions would have been freed from hunger and disease? How many millions would have had food and opportunities for education, employment and places to live?”
The Mongolian leader said it’s time for all leaders to reflect on what progress could have been achieved “if this huge amount of money had been spent on the pressing issues of combating global warming and climate change.”
Edith M. Lederer has been chief U.N. correspondent for The Associated Press since 1998. Pia Sarkar, a Philadelphia-based journalist for The Associated Press, is on assignment covering the U.N. General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PiaSarkar_TK and for more AP coverage of the U.N. General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly
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