Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared somber and at times angry on Tuesday in a blistering speech to the U.N. General Assembly as he sought to shore up support for his country’s war effort and demand that Russia be punished for the invasion.
Zelenskyy, dressed in his trademark green fatigues on the podium at the front of the room, frowned as he called on other countries to recognize that Russia was a threat not just to Ukraine, but to the entire world. He called on other countries to help hold the line against Moscow as “mass destruction is gaining momentum.”
“While Russia is pushing the world towards the last war, Ukraine is doing everything it can to ensure that after Russian aggression, no one dares to attack any country again,” Zelenskyy said.
“We have to be united to make it, and we will do it,” he added.
Zelenskiy accused the Kremlin of threatening and endangering the sovereignty of many of its neighbors and other countries outside Ukraine. He raised the issue of Russia’s occupation of Georgian and Moldovan territory, its costly military efforts in Syria and its control over Belarus.
Moscow also used threats against the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and exacerbated energy and food insecurity by bombing Ukrainian ports to sow division locally and internationally, Zelensky argued.
“The purpose of the current war against Ukraine is to turn our country, our people, our lives and our resources into a weapon against you, against the order based on international rules,” he said.
The speech is a change from the recorded address he gave to the UN last year, when he stayed in Kiev to highlight Ukrainian resistance. It seemed that Ukraine was hoping to perhaps cash in on Zelenskyy’s growing global fame to promote international dialogue with the countries present, and it worked as many diplomats and leaders took photos of the young Ukrainian president, a former television comedian, while he spoke.
Zelenskyy’s physical presence at the UN on Tuesday demonstrated a more direct diplomatic approach with allies, partners and other major world governments, such as India and Brazil, that have largely remained on the sidelines in the conflict.
Zelenskiy, who was prioritized by UN membership, was the twelfth world leader to speak on Tuesday. He finally took the stage after more than five hours of speeches by nine presidents, the king of Jordan and the emir of Qatar.
Zelenskyy sat with his colleagues on the aisle on the right side of the room during other leaders’ speeches. Andriy Yermak, a key part of Ukraine’s diplomatic and public reporting who heads Zelenskyy’s office, sat next to him with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba nearby. Before the speeches began at 9 a.m. Tuesday, numerous officials and leaders came to speak with the Ukrainian president and shake hands.
The US delegation – including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry – sat at the adjacent desk.
Zelenskyy appeared stern when President Joe Biden spoke at the UN earlier on Tuesday. The US president’s speech spent noticeably little time on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the challenges facing the Eastern European country – a departure from last year’s speech – although Biden clearly placed the blame for the war on the Kremlin.
“Only Russia has the power to immediately end this war, and it is only Russia that stands in the way of peace,” he said.
“If we allow Ukraine to be divided, is the security of any country safe?” Biden added, earning his first applause of the meeting.
Most of the leaders who stood before the Ukrainian president on the podium at the U.N. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan acknowledged that the world is facing the largest number of violent conflicts since World War II — though few directly addressed Russia’s war in Ukraine . Most speeches focused more on the challenges of climate change, growing income inequality and poverty, evolving refugee crises and the need for greater international dialogue to promote peace.
While Zelensky underlined the need for peace, he warned that world leaders should not believe in Russian leadership. He also noted that he was aware that some countries were trying to make backroom deals with the pariah state.
“Evil cannot be trusted. Ask Prigozhin if you are betting on Putin’s promises,” he said, referring to Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash after launching an uprising against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Zelenskyy is expected to address the UN Security Council on Wednesday. The Ukrainian leader said during his speech on Tuesday that he planned to bring his country’s peace plan, which has been endorsed by most countries at the UN, to Wednesday’s meeting. It will most likely be one of the first times that Ukrainian and Russian diplomats will sit at the same table since negotiations collapsed at the start of the war more than 18 months ago.
Zelenskyy will also meet with Biden at the White House, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon and members of the Senate at the Capitol on Thursday.
There is still considerable disagreement on Capitol Hill over the White House’s request for additional aid to Ukraine. The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is trying to prevent a government shutdown while expanding U.S. military support to Kiev, while also trying to calm hardliners within the conference who are opposed to helping Ukraine and want to cut government spending.
Zelensky’s trip to Washington is likely intended to counter these conservative voices and ensure that Ukraine’s biggest benefactor continues to provide military and humanitarian support.
The Ukrainian president started his visit to the US on Monday. He met with wounded Ukrainian troops at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, where 18 soldiers who lost limbs during the war have been treated since March. Zelensky thanked the wounded and their doctors and told the soldiers to “stay strong.”
“We will all be waiting for you when you get home,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “We absolutely need you all.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com