UNITED NATIONS – The first steps towards achieving peace in the Donbas should be the withdrawal of Russian forces from the occupied territories and the return of permanent control to Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, stated President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine in a video address to the participants of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 23.
“A comprehensive ceasefire began on July 27, which, despite attempts to break it, still gives hope for achieving a sustainable truce,” the Ukrainian president stressed.
He said the next steps on this path should be the withdrawal of illegal armed formations and weapons from the occupied territories, the return of control over the state border and, ultimately, the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
According to Mr. Zelenskyy, over the past year, Ukraine has proven through concrete actions that it really wants peace. “We managed to unblock the dialogue, we resumed the meetings of the leaders of the Normandy Four countries, we made significant progress in the mutual release of detainees,” he said.
Mr. Zelenskyy thanked Ukraine’s international partners for their help and support, and expressed hope for the further unity of the international community regarding this matter. At the same time, he emphasized that “the U.N. plays an important role in restoring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as the authority of international law.”
However, for this, he said, it is necessary to improve existing mechanisms within the international organization. “It is unacceptable when the sovereignty of an independent state is violated by one of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council,” Mr. Zelenskyy stated.
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Following is the full text of President of Zelenskyy’s address at the general debate of the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly, as posted by the Presidential Office of Ukraine on September 23.
Distinguished Mr. President!
Your Excellencies! Ladies and Gentlemen!
On behalf of Ukraine, I have the honor to congratulate you, Mr. [Volkan] Bozkir, on your election as president of the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly.
You happened to steer the Assembly in hard times, when even traditional international instruments and formats may not work. Therefore, I want to assure you that Ukraine has been, is and will be a reliable partner for you and the U.N., even though today we are separated by thousands of kilometers.
A year ago in New York, we discussed threats to the international future, made plans and forecasts. But could anyone at least imagine that 2020 would stage such a crash test for the planet?
The countries lock down their borders, the Summer Olympics postponed, and the U.N. General Assembly is taking place online. A year ago, we would say that this is a script of an apocalyptic blockbuster, not the realities of 2020.
At such a disturbing time for the world, it is appropriate to remember the sentiments of the leaders of the U.N. founding countries 75 years ago. Humanity has survived the most horrendous war. The world resembled a soldier moving through a bloodstained field one minute after the explosions stopped. Exhausted, devastated, at a loss, but alive.
World War II was a planetary “earthquake” that claimed tens of millions of lives. And humanity was able to recover. And on October 24, 1945, at a conference in San Francisco, the founding members of the United Nations, including Ukraine, rejected all contradictions and united to build a better world together.
Undoubtedly, in these 75 years, many achievements have been made in terms of economic development, overcoming poverty, minimizing wars and cataclysms that could have happened without the U.N.
Mankind has conquered space and can even hold U.N. meetings remotely, using modern technology.
Speaking the language of the same technology, the U.N. has become “software” that saved the world from critical error.
At the same time, we must recognize that the system is increasingly failing. It is attacked by new “bugs” and “viruses.” And countering them is not always effective.
I speak of this as the head of state in which the Russian Federation annexed the Crimean peninsula in the 21st century. A state that has been deterring its military aggression in Donbas for seven years.
What sentiments would the founders of the United Nations have had they known that there would be a war in central Europe 75 years later? That in Crimea human rights are flagrantly violated. That Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars are being persecuted. That militarization of the peninsula and sea areas around it is intensifying, which breaches the security balance of the Black Sea region. Would they change anything in the U.N. Charter and mechanisms had they known that in 75 years as a result of the war in Donbas there would be 14,000 dead and almost one and a half million people would lose their homes?
Undoubtedly, over the last year we have proved that Ukraine really strives for peace. We managed to unblock the dialogue, we resumed meetings of the leaders of the Normandy format countries, we made significant progress in the mutual release of detainees. And on July 27, a comprehensive ceasefire began, which, despite attempts to disrupt it, still gives hope for a stable “silence.”
And it is essential to keep moving towards peace.
The next steps in this direction should be: the withdrawal of illegal armed groups and weapons from the occupied territories, the return of control over the state border and, finally, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders.
We are grateful to our international partners for their assistance and support along the way. We hope for the further unity of the international community on this matter. I am convinced that the U.N. should play an important role in restoring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as the authority of international law. To do this, the existing mechanisms should be improved. It is unacceptable when the sovereignty of an independent state is violated by one of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. This finally proves that the mechanisms of the 1945 model are not fully operational today.
All this could lead to further depreciation of the Security Council. Ukraine will take an active part in the process of its reform. This body must become more representative, balanced, transparent and efficient. It is in the U.N.’s interest to have an effective tool if someone abuses the veto and the status of a permanent member.
In addition, I would like to take this opportunity to invite our friends to participate in the creation of an international Crimean platform for joint action to protect the rights of Crimean people and the de-occupation of the peninsula.
I also call for support for the updated resolution “The situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine,” which will be submitted to the General Assembly by the end of this year.
Most importantly, the issues of Crimea and Donbas should not become customary elements of the international landscape, where only reports, conferences and protocol statements on the anniversary of the occupation will be considered a sufficient form of international response.
On the contrary, as long as the wound in central Europe is bleeding, the whole world will feel the pain. And the only recipe for effective treatment is the de-occupation of Crimea and Donbas.
I understand that since 2014 the U.N. has been hearing about all this every year. But this is the biggest problem. And this applies not only to the Ukrainian issue, but also to all global threats to the planet, reports of which are getting longer and longer every year.
And the worst thing is that cataclysms have become commonplace. The world got accustomed to terrible news. They are still shocking, but are quickly forgotten when a new information bomb explodes on the global agenda.
At the Assembly last year, I said: there is no longer a notion of someone else’s war. Our planet is not so big anymore.
This is proved by the case of MH17. This is evidenced by climatic threats. Problems with access to food and drinking water. This is proved by information threats to the world. When misinformation and fake news can affect world markets, stock markets and even the electoral process.
Ukraine, as one of the states that has been actively opposing propaganda and information attacks since 2014, stands ready to initiate the establishment in Kyiv of the headquarters of the International Office to Counter Disinformation and Propaganda.
The fact that our planet is no longer so big was finally proved by 2020. Fires in Australia that shook everyone. Or the downing of a Boeing 737, when a Ukrainian plane carrying citizens of Ukraine, Canada, Iran, Afghanistan, Great Britain and Sweden was shot down over Iran.
And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which spread at a lightning speed. Mankind did not even have time to search the words “COVID” and “Wuhan” in Google, as coronavirus has already been knocking on the door of every house.
Pay attention to another thing. Coronavirus spares no one.
It is indifferent to the availability of nuclear weapons in the country and the level of its GDP. Whether the country is part of the G-7 or G-20. Whether Christianity, Islam, Judaism or other religions are professed in this country. It doesn’t matter to COVID.
COVID-19 has shown that the global world is not just a world without borders. This is also a global responsibility, when not seven, not 20, but at least 193 countries should be involved in counteracting common threats.
Today it is clear that the fight against COVID-19 will last more than one year. This is hardly the last pandemic we will have to go through. So we all need to get out of the current crisis stronger and better prepared.
This is a test for all states. The pursuit of access to limited resources will only exacerbate the problems. We need sincerity in dialogue and effective solidarity, because this is where the value of multilateralism lies.
Together we must overcome the most serious economic crisis of recent years. The expected figures for the fall in GDP are sometimes ambiguous. These are not just statistics, interesting only to a narrow circle of experts. It is reducing the quality of life of billions of people, a looming threat of hunger for millions.
Uniting efforts of all states is an absolute requirement of the time. Ukraine cannot stay aside and is ready to make its contribution to ensuring, in particular, food security of mankind.
Every year, the call for action instead of talks is getting louder in the General Assembly. It testifies to the crisis in the United Nations, the security architecture, humanity health, our economies and the world as a whole.
The 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations should be an incentive to transform the organization into a more dynamic and efficient body.
At the beginning of my speech in 2021, I would very much like to state that the 75th Assembly will go down in history as an example of a return to effective multilateralism and efficient international solidarity. Which not only recalled the goals and principles of the U.N. Charter, but also began to constantly and strictly adhere to them. Which resumed the truth that was fundamental when the U.N. was founded: We don’t have a reserve planet. We live here and just once.
This is the future we want, this is the U.N. we need. I sincerely wish to achieve this to you, Mr. President, and all the stakeholders. I am convinced that these are 193 U.N. countries.