Ukraine’s President Sounds Wake up Call for UN; Reminds Delegates about Crimea & Moscow Aggression
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy used his annual address at the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 23 to shake the 76-year-old global body out of its doldrums and actively seek an end to Russian aggression against his country.
“It’s time to wake up,” Zelenskyy chided the UN bureaucrats and the other 192 member-states at the start of his address immediately following the opening diplomatic courtesies.
Ukraine’s head of state straightaway cited global unrest and dangers by revealing one that was close to home. He informed the General Assembly about the attempt on the life of his first aide. Twelve shots were fired and three of them hit the driver, who was hospitalized.
“Here is the price of change in the state, here is the price of reforms,” he moralized.
Zelenskyy’s impassioned statement was filled with acknowledgements of the UN’s memorable history of achievements while he bemoaned that nothing has been done to compel Moscow to end its war against Ukraine and evacuate from the country. However, his low-key words were devoid of strong denunciations of Moscow’s crimes and demands for its evacuation from Ukraine.
On the other hand, Ukraine’s own history of serving as a battleground for numerous wars, the Holodomor murder of 7-10 million Ukrainian men, women and children as well as Babyn Yar and the Holocaust has awakened it many decades ago. “I can say without flattery and cunning: Ukraine did it a long time ago, since then it has not fallen asleep. It did not fall asleep when it survived the Holodomor, Babyn Yar,” Zelenskyy said. “Did not fall asleep when the whole world survived two wars, the Holocaust, lost 100 million people. This was the price for humanity to realize that all nations, all countries are equal, and all conflicts must be resolved through dialogues and only through dialogues, not tanks.”
Echoing criticisms by many others who have spoken at the UN rostrum, Zelenskyy professed that the two words known around the world – United Nations – do not represent real estate on the eastside of Manhattan island. “The UN is not a building, the UN is the leaders. And it was they who created the UN 76 years ago,” he said, referring to leaders of 193 member-states and their predecessors. In order to overcome today’s problems and resume a course of helping countries around the world, the global leadership embedded in the United Nations needs to believe in itself, he accentuated.
“The UN has long heard only criticism. The accusation that the UN can do nothing. And the worst accusation is that ‘the UN has become a League of Nations.’ And today the UN is like a retired superhero who has forgotten what he could do. He considers himself a burden, a weak, frail, useless old man, whose life was in vain. Or maybe the UN will remember something?” Zelenskyy continued his line of thinking.
Consequently, believing that conflicts must be resolved peacefully, he reminded his fellow diplomats that in 1945 Ukraine became one of the founding members of the United Nations.
And throughout its recent history, Ukraine has not shirked its global responsibilities. Despite worldwide turmoil, COVID-19 pandemic and terrorism, Ukraine has sought to contribute to the improvement of humanity, Zelenskyy said.
“Ukraine did not expect help from others. And helped others without waiting for gratitude. We sent our doctors to Italy, sent the necessary assets. Ukraine helped everyone who needed it at a time when the world had forgotten that the pandemic would not last forever, and that all nations would one day gather here again. But how will they look each other in the eyes now? Ukraine is not ashamed,” he said.
Consequently, “It has the right to say: we want to revive the UN. To begin with, its Charter must be revived,” Zelenskyy said.
Turning to Russia’s illegal temporary occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Zelenskyy said the battle for freedom and rights is being waged on Ukraine’s shores of the Black Sea. Supporting Ukraine’s sovereign rights in Crimea is a “commitment to the basic principles of the United Nations.” The recently concluded Summit of the Crimea Platform on the deoccupation of Crimes is a commitment to the UN’s basic principles, he said, adding that he is grateful to the 46 participants for their support. However, the lack of UN support for the platform is a demonstration of “some new, unapproved principles.”
Zelenskyy said Crimea embodies “the price of freedom, here is the price of fighting for your rights, for human rights.”
The President of Ukraine boldly said he expects “the support of the international community in the issue of the release of about 450 Ukrainians illegally detained in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. I urge you to support the updated resolutions on the human rights situation in the occupied Crimea and the militarization of our Ukrainian occupied peninsula, which will be submitted to the General Assembly by the end of the year.”
With the recent formal inclusion of the agenda item on the “Situation in the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine” in the agenda of the current session of General Assembly, Zelenskyy thanked all states that mentioned Ukraine in their speeches here this years.
“It is very important. And many others who are not ashamed that Ukraine is their friend and partner. Who can call things by their names: call occupation occupation, and call aggression aggression, without fear that someone will leave this hall for everyone to see. It is not necessary to do this, it is a platform for dialogue. It will definitely not bring happiness to Ukraine. It could bring happiness to Ukraine if someone left our state territories, our state borders for everyone to see,” he said.
Russian occupation of Crimea and its abuse of the rights of Ukrainian citizens and the environment require greater UN’s attention, he said. “They made a military base out of unique nature. Instead of fauna and flora there is a fleet and soldiers. And in the souls of the Crimean people, there is a problem opposite to the world – not global warming, but global devastation,” Zelenskyy charged.
The United Nations was launched at the Yalta Conference in Crimea and now Yalta and Crimea have been occupied for eight years.
“Mr. President of the 76th Assembly spoke a lot about climate change and the protection of the environment and nature on the planet. In this context, Crimea needs even more UN’s attention. They made a military base out of unique nature. Instead of fauna and flora there is a fleet and soldiers. And in the souls of the Crimean people, there is a problem opposite to the world – not global warming, but global devastation,” Zelenskyy said.
Sarcastically questioning the appellation of debates at the UN General Assembly, Zelenskyy rejected that label, saying in reality it is “an active dispute between different parties.”
“This is an opportunity to ask direct, frank questions. For example, issuing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in the occupied territory of Ukraine hundreds of thousands of passports of another state. Isn’t it evidence of an international crime? Isn’t it proof of impunity and disrespect for international law? Moreover, the Russian Federation itself officially declares it. And it forces our citizens of Ukraine to take part in the elections to the Russian parliament.”
Zelenskyy called on the United Nations to “support those who want to change the world for the better” among them Ukraine. He said his country is presenting a number of initiatives, platforms and summits. Let’s take only one – the Crimea Platform. It must work under the auspices of the United Nations. If every nation has such an effective platform, approved by the UN, which solves problems and works 24/7, that means reviving the UN. Because it means to revive faith in the UN among ordinary people.