Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on September 21 demanded that a special United Nations tribunal impose “just punishment” on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in a video address to the U.N. General Assembly just hours after U.S. President Joe Biden said Moscow “shamelessly violated the core tenets” of the U.N. Charter with its “brutal, needless war.”
In his pre-recorded address to world leaders, the Ukrainian president demanded Russia be punished “for trying to steal our territory” and “for the murders of thousands of people.” He said there also should be financial penalties and Moscow should be stripped of its veto power in the U.N. Security Council.
“A crime has been committed against Ukraine, and we demand just punishment,” said Mr. Zelenskyy, who is the only world leader permitted to address the General Assembly in a pre-recorded video message.
“A special tribunal should be created to punish Russia for the crime of aggression against our state. … Russia should pay for this war with its assets,” the Ukrainian president said.
Mr. Zelenskyy, wearing his signature olive green military T-shirt, said a special tribunal would hold Russia accountable and provide a “signal to all would-be aggressors.”
The General Assembly responded with a rare standing ovation.
Mr. Zelenskyy’s address came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin mobilized reservists in Russia’s first wartime mobilization since World War II and made a veiled threat to use nuclear weapons.
Mr. Zelenskyy made clear that he saw no point in holding talks with Moscow, saying that Russia is “afraid of real negotiations” and only wants to use diplomacy as a tactic to delay.
“They talk about the talks but announce military mobilization. They talk about the talks but announce pseudo-referendums in the occupied territories of Ukraine,” he said.
The mobilization, which could call up as many as 300,000 reservists, was met by anti-war protests in several Russian cities. More than 1,000 people were arrested across the country, according to OVD-Info, a human rights group.
At press time, Russia had not yet had its turn to speak at the U.N. General Assembly, which Putin is not attending.
Mr. Biden’s address earlier on Septem-ber 21 criticized Russia for launching the war.
“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,” Mr. Biden said. “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.”
In issuing the firm rebuke of Russia’s invasion, Mr. Biden also reaffirmed U.S. backing for Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself.
“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period,” Mr. Biden said.
Putin in his address earlier on Sep-tem-ber 21 warned the West that “it’s not a bluff” that Russia would use all the means at its disposal to protect its territory.
Mr. Biden said Putin’s nuclear threats against Europe showed “reckless disregard” for Russia’s responsibilities as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Prolifera-tion of Nuclear Weapons.
Mr. Biden also responded to plans by Moscow-installed officials in Russian-occupied regions in eastern and southern Ukraine to hold votes on being incorporated into Russia, criticizing them as “sham” referendums.
He called on all nations to speak out against Russia’s invasion and to bolster Ukraine’s effort to defend itself.
(With reporting by AFP, Reuters and AP)
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