Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for punishing Russia for invading his country and making it compensate for the damages it has caused.
Speaking to the UN General Assembly’s high-level session through a video link on Wednesday, Zelensky said a special international tribunal should be set up for its aggression so that it “will become (a) signal to all ‘would-be’ aggressors, that they must value peace or be brought to (take) responsibility by the world”.
In the Assembly chamber full of formally dressed leaders and diplomats, Zelensky was projected on two giant screens dressed in an olive green T-shirt and spoke in Englsih while sitting informally at a desk.
All participants are required to speak in person at the meeting, but he was given special permission through an Assembly resolution backed by India last week to speak remotely despite Russia’s opposition.
Zelensky accused Moscow of using oil and gas as “energy weapons” that are causing a cost-of-living crisis in several countries.
Prices of Russia’s energy exports should be capped to end its blackmail, he said.
Zelensky’s speech came after setbacks to Russia which lost about 3,700 square miles of seized territory to a counteroffensive and its President Vladimir Putin called up about 300,00 reservists to bolster its armed forces.
“Ukraine showed strength on the battlefield, using its right to self-defence in accordance with the UN Charter,” Zelensky said.
He said that as long as the aggression continued, Russia must be stripped of its veto and voting rights.
Zelensky backed restructuring the UN Security Council by expanding it to include “the representation of those who remained unheard”.
There is “an imbalance when Africa, Latin America, most of Asia, Central and Eastern Europe comply with the (outcomes of the) right of veto, that they themselves never had”, he said.
While Russia is a permanent member of the Council for “some reason”, he asked, for what reason it is “not Japan or Brazil, not Turkey or India, not Germany or Ukraine” who are permanent members”.
Zelensky detailed the human rights violations and tortures and killings in gory details.
He accused Russia of not being sincere in offers to negotiate because it only wanted to be able to stay on in territories that it holds and consolidate its offensive capabilities.
As part of what he called his “peace plan”, he asked for military support including offensive weapons, long-range systems and air defence.
Earlier on Wednesday. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar met Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal who asked India to “join forces” to stop Russia’s invasion.
Shmyhal tweeted that he also thanked India for its humanitarian assistance.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at email@example.com and followed at @arulouis)