UN member states voted Friday, Sep. 16,  to make an exception to allow Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to address next week’s General Assembly by video, despite Russian opposition.

Of the 193 member states, 101 voted in favor of allowing Zelensky to “present a pre-recorded statement” instead of in-person as usually required.

Seven members voted against the proposal, including Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February. 19 states abstained.
From Tuesday, some 150 heads of state and government are due to take to the podium to address the General Assembly in New York.

World leaders were allowed to speak by video in 2020 and in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but this year the event has gone back to in-person and only those present can speak.

More than 50 states, including the United States, France, South Korea and Turkey, submitted a proposal to make an exception for Zelensky.


The text highlighted situations in which leaders “cannot participate in person in the meetings of the General Assembly for reasons beyond their control owing to ongoing foreign invasion, aggression, military hostilities.”
Those in favor decided that Ukraine can “submit a pre-recorded statement of its Head of State” that will be played during the general debate.

The decision noted, however, that the exception was not setting a precedent for future debates.

“We deeply regret that Russia’s war does not allow our president to participate in person,” said Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, told members, insisting “very special circumstances” were at play.

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The $61-billion military aid package from the United States, if passed as expected, will allow the Armed Forces of Ukraine to bomb troops and operations behind enemy lines.

Russia rejected the argument, with deputy ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy denouncing the “politicization of a procedural decision.”

“If the General Assembly is ready to consider the possibility of pre-recorded statements during the general debate, this right must be granted to all those who need it,” he said.

Russia-ally Belarus had proposed an amendment that would have allowed all leaders prevented from traveling to New York to send a pre-recorded message, but it was rejected by 67 votes against, with 23 for and 27 abstentions.
Ukraine’s address is slated for the afternoon of September 21, but changes are likely due to many leaders heading to London for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday

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