'Act or dissolve': Ukrainian President challenges UN's purpose during speech to Security Council

'Act or dissolve': Ukrainian President challenges UN's purpose during speech to Security Council
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on screen in the Security Council Chamber. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

On Tuesday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky called into question the purpose of the United Nations, calling on it to urgently reform or face dissolution, during his address to the Security Council in light of its response to the ongoing war.

Zelensky spoke "in name of the victims" during the Security Council for the first time since the Russian invasion, which has resulted in over a quarter of Ukraine’s population fleeing the country, and stressed that Russia must answer for its war crimes, especially following the alleged atrocities committed in Bucha, where bodies were left strewn across the streets.

"Russian troops have been killing civilians and raping women just for fun," Zelensky, who visited the town to the northwest of the country's capital on Monday, said via video conference. "Russia must be held accountable for war crimes."

In an impassioned address to the Council, Zelensky accused Russia of genocide, and stated that his visit to the destroyed town of Bucha has made it very difficult to negotiate with Russia: "when you see what they have done here."

He evoked the acts committed by Adolf Hitler's army during the Second World War, which led to the creation of much of the world’s security architecture, arguing that he did not go unpunished and that the same must be ensured for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We are dealing with a State that is turning the veto of the United Nations Security Council into the right to die," Zelynskyy warned. "If it continues, countries will rely not on international law or global institutions to ensure security, but rather, on the power of their own arms."

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He pointed to the fact that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, and questioned the "security that the Security Council must guarantee," challenging the UN to either remove the Russian Federation as a permanent member of the Security Council so it can no longer block decisions made about its own aggression, or simply “dissolve yourselves altogether."

"Are you ready to close the United Nations? Do you think that the time for international law is gone?” he asked.

Political response

During Tuesday's Security Council meeting on the situation in Ukraine, UN Secretary-General António Guterres once again expressed his regret over divisions that have prevented the Council from acting on the Ukraine conflict and urged the security body to do “everything in its power” to end the war.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia counteracted Zelensky's speech, saying Russia in fact "saved 123,500 people in Mariupol, without any help from Ukraine."

"Over 600,000 people have been evacuated to Russian territory since its 'special operation' began. We’re not talking about coercion or abduction," he stated, adding that there is video imagery to prove this.

Nebenzia added that Russia places the ungrounded accusations against the Russian military — which he argued are "uncorroborated by eye-witnesses" — on Zelensky's conscience, and blamed Kyiv and the Western media for promoting “flagrant inconsistencies” regarding what happened in Bucha.

In response, Olof Skoog, head of the European Union delegation, called on Moscow to immediately "stop its military aggression, unconditionally withdraw all forces from Ukraine and fully respect its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders."

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