Ukraine’s president demanded Wednesday that Russia be punished for its illegal war against his people, telling world leaders that Moscow will be forced to end the war it started.
“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a prerecorded video address. Member states had voted to allow him to send his speech to the U.N. General Assembly because he could not travel there in person.
He said Moscow must pay for its February 24 invasion and the subsequent bombings and reported atrocities it has carried out against his people, of whom thousands have been killed and millions displaced.
“A special tribunal should be created to punish Russia for the crime of aggression against our state,” he said.
Zelenskyy spoke passionately in English throughout his nearly half-hour-long remarks. His wife, first lady Olena Zelenska, was at Ukraine’s table in the General Assembly Hall, accompanied by the country’s prime minister, foreign minister and U.N. ambassador.
Russia sent a deputy ambassador and another junior diplomat to observe the proceedings.
Preconditions for peace
Zelenskyy laid out what he said were his five preconditions for peace.
“Punishment for aggression, protection of life, restoration of security and territorial integrity, security guarantees, and determination to defend oneself,” he said. “This is the formula of crime and punishment.”
That includes monetary reparations from Moscow, he said, “one of the most terrible punishments for Russian officials who value money above everything else.”
He said that Ukraine wants peace, and only one country — Russia — does not.
“We are ready for peace, but true, honest and fair peace,” he said.
Russia, he said, is afraid of “real negotiations” and suggests them only to slow its retreat from Ukraine.
“They talk about the talks but announce military mobilization,” he noted.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia said earlier Wednesday he was calling up 300,000 more soldiers to fight in the war. He also announced referenda in four occupied areas of Ukraine in the coming days.
Countries can no longer stay on the sidelines, Zelenskyy said.
“Those who speak of neutrality, when human values and peace are under attack, mean something else. They talk about indifference — everyone for themselves,” he said.
He said his country had exercised its right to self-defense under the U.N. Charter and called on nations to support its fight.
“For us, this is a war for life,” he declared. “That is why we need defense support — weapons, military equipment and shells; offensive weapons, a long-range one is enough to liberate our land; and defensive systems, above all, air defense.”
He promised that with adequate arms, his people could return the Ukrainian flag to all its territories.
“But we need time,” he said.
He ended his address with what has become Ukraine’s familiar rallying cry: “Slava Ukraini” — “Glory to Ukraine” — and was met with nearly a minute of applause from the crowded assembly hall, some delegates rising to their feet.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will deliver his address in person on Saturday. He is also likely to have strong words for Kyiv at a ministerial-level U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will brief members at that meeting.