President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy is pictured during his regular address to the nation, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.
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UNITED NATIONS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will deliver dramatic remarks to world leaders Wednesday, hours after Russia moved to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops for its monthslong assault on Ukraine.
Zelenskyy, who has not left his war-weary nation since Russia invaded in February, will speak after a Ukrainian counteroffensive reclaimed vast swaths of land lost early in the war. But on the second day of diplomatic choreography in the iconic green-and-gold draped United Nations General Assembly hall, Zelenskyy will be the only president to address world leaders from screens hanging above the vast room.
The international forum voted last week to allow Zelenskyy to offer pre-taped remarks to the annual gathering of world leaders, making an exception to its requirement that all leaders speak in person. The 193-member world body approved Zelenskky’s virtual remarks by a 101-7 vote, with 19 abstentions including China. Belarus, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia and Syria were the seven countries that voted against Zelenskyy’s request.
Zelenskyy will be the sole leader to address the 77th U.N. General Assembly virtually in the first year the annual high-level gathering in New York City is back in person since the Covid-19 pandemic.
A view of the 74th United Nations General Assembly on September 28, 2019 in New York City.
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Zelenskyy’s remarks come as Russia’s war enters its eighth month, and the Kremlin shows no signs of relinquishing ambitions to erase Ukrainian sovereignty in order to restore the Soviet empire.
The conflict escalated earlier Wednesday as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced referenda on whether to join Russia in four occupied regions of Ukraine. The move is believed to be a Kremlin attempt to annex additional swaths of its ex-Soviet neighbor. The votes could happen as soon as this weekend.
Putin also ordered approximately 300,000 Russian military reservists to join the fight. The partial mobilization, Russia’s first since World War II, follows a series of stunning Ukrainian advances in recent days.
Ukrainian forces, equipped with a plethora of Western weapons, have made significant gains against the Kremlin’s mighty war machine.
The United States has so far provided Kyiv a war chest worth more than $15 billion. Meanwhile, NATO allies have bolstered security throughout the region, taken in refugees and trained Ukrainian forces.
Zelenskyy is expected to call for more arms as his nation carries out an era-defining fight for democratic principles and global order.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the Kharkiv region for the first time since Russia started the attacks against his country on February 24, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine on May 29, 2022.(Photo by Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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While nearly every leader who has stepped behind the famed speaker’s rostrum to address the international forum has condemned Russia for its ongoing assault, Zelenskyy is expected to urge leaders to publicly establish where they stand on the war.
He will call on countries such as China, the world’s second-largest economy, to abandon its neutrality.
The U.N. estimates Russia’s war has so far claimed nearly 6,000 civilian lives and led to more than 8,600 injuries. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights adds that the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher.
Meanwhile, the European Commission and World Bank estimate that it will cost at least $349 billion to reconstruct Ukraine after the war.