‘Russia wants war’: Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls for peace and war crimes tribunal in UN speech

United Nations — Speaking English with 193 people United Nations General AssemblyUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a pre-recorded message to a standing ovation in a room packed with world leaders and his wife, First Lady Olena Zelenska, except for the Russian delegation and a handful of other countries.

Zelenskyy was unable to travel to the UN headquarters in New York due to the escalation of the situation Russian attacks. Just hours before, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a massive mobilization for attacks by Russian forces against Ukraine and began preparations for a referendum to officially formalize the occupation of parts of Ukraine. The United States and the European Union consider the referendum a sham.

Earlier this year, the UN decided that this year the leader must be at headquarters to speak. However, the General Assembly voted 101-7 in favor of Zelenskyy’s exemption. Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Russia and Syria voted against him.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is seen on screen as he delivers a telephonic speech during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 21, 2022.

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

“It was a vote not only on format. It was a vote on principles,” Zelenskyy said in his speech on Wednesday. “Seven who fear the video appeal. Seven who answer the principles with a red button. Only seven. One hundred and one – and seven.”

Ukraine’s president detailed the country’s atrocities against civilians and called on the United Nations to hold Russia accountable for alleged crimes. He said the Russian airstrike killed a family — father, mother, a 6-year-old girl, an 8-year-old girl and their grandparents — and he pointed the recently discovered mass grave at Izyum.

Zelensky said the United Nations should recognize Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

“After the Russian missile terror. After the massacres. After Mariupol,” he said. “After the burning of Ukrainian prisoners in Olenivka by the Russian military. After the blockade of the ports. After Russian tanks and missiles hit nuclear power plants. And after threats to use nuclear weapons, which have become the rule, not the exception, for Russian propagandists…”

Zelenskyy outlined a plan with five “preconditions” for peace with Russia: punishment for aggression; protection of life; restoration of security and territorial integrity; security guarantees; and the determination to protect oneself. He also called on the United Nations to create a special tribunal “to punish Russia for the crime of aggression against our country.”

“This will be a signal to all would-be aggressors that they must value peace or take the world to task,” he said.

Citing the UN Charter, as President Biden did this hours earlierZelenskyy asked for more military and financial support.

“We did not provoke this war,” he said. “We held 88 rounds of negotiations in different formats to prevent this war from the beginning of my presidency until February 24 of this year.”

But instead of finding a way forward, Russia launched a “full-scale” aggression, he said.

“Russia wants war. That’s true. But Russia cannot stop the course of history. Humanity and international law are stronger than one terrorist state,” he said. “Russia is forced to end this war. The war it has started.”