UNITED NATIONS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants to visit the United Nations to address a high-level meeting of the 193-member General Assembly on the eve of the first anniversary of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of his country if the security situation permits, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova cautioned in an interview Friday with The Associated Press that many factors need to be in place for him to come, citing first and foremost the military situation on the ground and a warning from Ukraine’s intelligence service that Russia is planning “a very serious offensive in February.”
“Our president would want to come, he has a will or intention to come,” she said, “but it’s still a question if there will be a security situation that will allow him to come.”
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a Facebook statement Saturday that no decision has been made so far on whether such a visit will indeed take place. Zelenskyy “makes visits abroad depending on the situation in Ukraine and other factors,” Oleg Nikolenko said, promising to “keep the public properly informed” about the president’s plans for foreign trips.
If Zelenskyy does come to the U.N., it would be only his second trip outside Ukraine since the invasion. He made a surprise visit to Washington on Dec. 21 to meet his most important backers in the war against Russia — President Joe Biden and members of Congress whom he thanked for their support and told that “against all odds” Ukraine still stands.
Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said the General Assembly has already scheduled a high-level debate on the war on Feb. 23, which will be followed by a ministerial meeting of the Security Council on Feb. 24.
Dzhaparova said Ukraine would like to see the assembly adopt one of the two resolutions that Zelenskyy wants to see approved on the eve of the anniversary of the invasion.
She said Ukraine is consulting with its partners on the two measures, one that would support the president’s 10-point peace formula that includes the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of Russian forces and the other that would establish a tribunal to prosecute crimes of aggression, which would enable Russia to be held accountable for its unprovoked invasion.
“We have to act step by step,” Dzhaparova said. “It’s still a question what will be the first. … I believe that this is something that we will know very soon, in the nearest week or two.”
In late December, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told AP the government wanted a “peace” summit by the end of February at the U.N., with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as mediator, but he didn’t anticipate Russia taking part. That would make it difficult to foresee mediation or an end to the devastating war.
Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador, said he doesn’t think Russian President Vladimir Putin would allow anyone to attend a summit because it doesn’t go along with his plan that Russian territorial gains are non-negotiable.
Dzhaparova said a summit is still under discussion and stressed that “it’s not a negotiation.”
Dzhaparova said the summit would be a platform to discuss things that Ukraine considers important on top of the 10-point peace proposal, which also includes the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the Russian aggression, and security guarantees for Ukraine.
“It’s about shaping the discourse,” she explained.
It doesn’t mean that by adopting a resolution or holding a summit Ukraine is ready to sign up to a peace agreement or cease-fire, Dzhaparova said. It means that only after a resolution or summit “negotiation about peace, or the agreement on peace, might be started.”
The former journalist and TV anchor, a Crimean Tatar whose parents left Crimea after Russia’s 2014 takeover and annexation of the strategic peninsula, said Ukraine needs political, economic and military support.
Politically, Dzhaparova said, Russia has discredited the U.N. Charter, which opposes the use of force against another country, and flouted international law and should be isolated by the international community.
She said it’s crucial to provide financial support to Ukraine because its economy has suffered much more than Russia’s, and to provide weapons “to fight for peace.”
Dzhaparova said the Ukrainian armed forces are highly motivated and are fighting to protect their land and people, “but the Russian army doesn’t understand what they’re fighting for.”
“We are doing our best to win, but then at the end of the day, it’s still a question of what will be the end,” she said.
If Ukraine were to lose, Dzhaparova said, Putin won’t be satisfied “and I’m sure that Russia would attack other countries in the nearest future.”
“This is not about Ukraine solely, it’s about a common goal to avoid further aggression,” she stressed. “If the war is not contained in Ukraine, the war will become bigger.”