Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on world leaders to bolster their support for Ukraine — and called out those who have claimed neutrality — amid increasing Russian aggression and nuclear threats.
- Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for “punishment for the catastrophic turbulence that Russia provoked with its illegal war”
- Mr Zelenskyy received a standing ovation from the UN General Assembly
- Penny Wong said Russia’s threats were “unthinkable” and “irresponsible”
“A crime has been committed against Ukraine and we demand just punishment,” he said during a prerecorded video message played to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
“The crime was committed against our state borders. The crime was committed against the lives of our people.”
Mr Zelenskyy called for “punishment for the catastrophic turbulence that Russia provoked with its illegal war, not only for us Ukrainians but for the whole world”.
He then laid out a five-step vision for peace, which included tougher penalties for Russia, and he called for additional financial and military aid to help liberate occupied territories.
“Ukraine wants peace. Europe wants peace. The world wants peace,” Mr Zelenskyy said.
“And we have seen who is the only one who wants war.”
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The speech was delivered less than 24 hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilisation, marking the most significant escalation in the war since Russia invaded its neighbour in February.
Mr Zelenskyy’s speech was met with a standing ovation in the General Assembly chamber, including from his wife, Olena, who attended in person.
The Russian delegation remained seated but did not walk out.
Seven of the United Nations’ 193 members had voted against Mr Zelenskyy’s right to speak.
In a televised address overnight, Mr Putin said the “partial mobilisation”, which will allow him to draw on an additional 300,000 reservists, was designed “to protect our homeland, its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
He also pledged Russia would “use all available means to protect our people”.
“This is not a bluff,” he said.
The assertion was rebuked by many in the international community and the reference to Russia’s nuclear capabilities was roundly condemned.
Australia and the US condemn Putin’s nuclear sabre-rattling
Following Mr Zelenskyy’s speech, Foreign Minister Penny Wong voiced her dismay at Russia ramping up its rhetoric.
“These threats are unthinkable and they are irresponsible,” she said.
“Russia alone is responsible for this illegal and immoral war.
“And peace must first lie with Russia withdrawing from Ukrainian territory.”
Asked if Australia would consider providing further military assistance to Ukraine, including additional Bushmaster vehicles, Senator Wong said the government would continue to consider Kyiv’s requests.
“We are in contact with our Ukrainian colleagues,” she said.
“We understand the extraordinary, extraordinarily difficult circumstances they face in the war in which they have been forced to engage.
“We will continue to work with partners to try to support them.
“And we will continue to consider the requests that have been made.”
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Thursday morning local time, US President Joe Biden denounced Mr Putin’s nuclear threats as “reckless”.
“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” he said.
Mr Biden accused Russia, which is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, of violating the core tenets of the UN Convention.
He labelled upcoming referendums on whether four Russia-controlled regions of Ukraine should join the Russian Federation a “sham”.
Many fear the referendums in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia signal the Kremlin is planning to formally annex the territories after rapid gains made by Ukraine in recent weeks.
“The world should see these outrageous acts for what they are,” Mr Biden said.
“Putin claims he had to act because Russia was threatened.
“But no-one threatened Russia and no-one other than Russia sought conflict.”
Mr Biden added the war was “about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state … [and] exist as a people”.
“Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold,” he said.