Calls on world to challenge Russian annexation that has left 14,000 dead

In a speech Wednesday, he called out failures in areas from sharing coronavirus vaccines to halting climate change to turning back Russia’s annexation of part of his country. He floated a proposal for the U.N. to head to global hotspots to hold its meetings — and offered to host one, the Associated Press reports.

“I’m not being ironic. I’m not trolling anyone,” he said. “It’s time to wake up.”

A political novice when elected in 2019, Ukraine’s 43-year-old president  Volodymyr Zelenskyy was addressing global diplomacy’s biggest annual gathering for the third time. His first appearance, in 2019, was fraught with a U.S. political firestorm over a phone call between him and then-U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump was eventually impeached over the call, in which he prodded Zelenskyy to investigate now-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

When the 2020 assembly meeting went virtual because of the pandemic, Zelenskyy expressed hope that the gathering would usher in a return “to effective multilateralism and effective international solidarity.”

A year later, a frustrated Zelenskyy concluded that the pandemic had shown the world had been “playing unity — where one thing is to share objectives and quite another is to share vaccines.”

Professions of unity seem to have a footnote, said the president of a country where about 12% of people are vaccinated: “We are all in one boat, but access to lifeboats is given first to first-class passengers.”

As he has in the past, Zelenskyy exhorted the world to mount a more effective challenge to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, a move that Moscow portrayed as protecting Russian-speaking people there. Subsequent fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-supported separatists has killed more than 14,000 people, and efforts to negotiate a political settlement have stalled.

“Maybe somewhere in Central Park or Madison Square Garden, those gunshots are not heard as loudly,” Zelenskyy said, referring to landmarks near the U.N. headquarters in New York. The powerful U.N. Security Council, where Russia has veto power, has never been able to take action on Ukraine.

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