UN members thwart Russian attempt to silence Zelenskyy at General Assembly

Ukrainian leader allowed to address annual gathering remotely

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the liberated city of Izium in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine. AP
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UN members on Friday voted to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to give a video address to the General Assembly, thwarting attempts by Russia and its allies to silence him.

Next week's annual gathering will bring heads of state from around the world to UN headquarters in New York to address the assembly. Such speeches are ordinarily given in person, though video addresses were allowed in 2020 and 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The US was one of 101 UN member states that voted in favour of a motion to allow Mr Zelenskyy to deliver his speech via video, given the “very exceptional circumstance” of the war with Russia.

Seven nations, including Russia, Belarus, Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea voted against the measure. Nineteen countries abstained, including China, which appears to be growing increasingly concerned with the Russia-initiated war.

Belarus put forward a Russia-backed proposal to allow any country to address the General Assembly by video but it failed to garner enough votes to proceed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to miss this year's assembly, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov may attend.

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters on Friday that the US delegation has no current plans to meet Russian diplomats.

“We will be having meetings with the Ukrainians,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said.

“There are no plans at this time to have meetings with the Russians. They have not indicated that they have an interest in diplomacy.”

She called for nations to hold Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine.

“Our response to Russia's flagrant violations cannot be to abandon the founding principles of this organisation that we believe so strongly in,” she said.

“We must double down on our commitment to a peaceful world and hold even closer our deeply held principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, peace and security.”

US President Joe Biden will be delivering his speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday morning. He was originally set to speak on Tuesday but is attending Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in London on Monday.

Updated: September 16, 2022, 8:46 PM