Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared before the U.N. Security Council in New York on Wednesday for the first time since Russia's invasion to garner support for his country and accuse Russia of carrying out "a criminal and unprovoked aggression" that shatters the norms of war and the U.N. Charter.
During a somewhat contentious meeting, Zelenskyy promoted action taken, including arming Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Russia.
'Helping Ukraine with weapons in this exercise, by imposing sanctions and exerting comprehensive pressure on the aggressor, as well as voting for relevant resolutions, would mean helping to defend the U.N. Charter,' Zelenskyy said.
The council has met dozens of times and voted repeatedly since Russia invaded 19 months ago and has demanded that the Kremlin remove its troops from Ukraine, though it has been unable to take any action on the matter because Russia has a veto.
Zelenskyy urged support of the Ukrainian effort, emphasizing that his peace proposal begins with adherence to the charter that ensures the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all 193 U.N. member nations.
Prior to the meeting, there was speculation about whether Zelenskyy and Russia's top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov, would confront one another, hold a discussion or just avoid each other. But Zelenskyy left the council soon after his address.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrives for a high level Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine, Sept. 20, 2023, at U.N. headquarters.
There were heated words exchanged, though, as the meeting kicked off before Lavrov arrived. Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia protested Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama's decision to allow Zelenskyy to speak ahead of the 15 council members. Nebenzia accused Rama - this month's council president - of trying to reduce the meeting to "a one-man stand-up show," asserting it would result in "nothing more than a spectacle" - a dig at Zelenskyy's career as a comedian before being elected Ukrainian president.
Rama cited the council rule allowing a nonmember to speak first and said, "This is not a special operation by the Albanian presidency," which prompted laughter at Russia's claim that its offensive against Ukraine is a "special military operation."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then briefed the council, noting that Russia's invasion was "in clear violation of the United Nations Charter and international law."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, listens as Security Council President and Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama speaks during a Security Council meeting, Sept. 20, 2023, at U.N. headquarters.
The war "is aggravating geopolitical tensions and divisions, threatening regional stability, increasing the nuclear threat and creating deep fissures in our increasingly multipolar world," the U.N. chief said.
Guterres reiterated his condemnation of the war and called for "a just and sustainable peace in Ukraine in line with the U.N. Charter and international law - for Ukraine, for Russia and for the world."
Zelensky's speech came at a time when some are questioning the Ukrainian war effort. Kyiv's counteroffensive is being met with staunch Russian defense, and cold weather soon will render some rural roads impassable.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also addressed the Security Council on Wednesday, condemning Russia for its repeated violations of the U.N. Charter.
"Russia has shredded the major tenets of the United Nations Charter, the universal declaration of human rights, international humanitarian law, and flouted one Security Council resolution after another," the top U.S. diplomat said.
Zelenskyy will travel to Washington to meet with President Joe Biden, where Biden is expected to announce a new military aid package for Ukraine.
Biden has been a staunch advocate of Ukraine and has asked other world leaders to stand with Kyiv to end the war.
Some members of the U.S. Republican Party have questioned the need to continue sending arms and aid totaling billions of dollars to Ukraine.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.