Zelensky tells UN to not make deals with ‘evil’ Russia: ‘Ask Prigozhin whether Putin can be trusted’

Western leaders have suspected the Kremlin’s involvement in Wagner chief’s death

Arpan Rai
Thursday 21 September 2023 05:17 BST
Russia’s UN ambassador plays on phone as Zelensky and Biden address Assembly

“Shady deals” with Russia must be stopped as Vladimir Putin cannot be trusted, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky said in an emphatic address to the UN General Assembly.

“Evil cannot be trusted – ask Prigozhin if one bets on Putin’s promises,” Mr Zelensky said on Tuesday, claiming he was aware of “attempts to make some shady deals behind the scenes”.

Notorious mercenary leader and Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin died in an unexplained crash when a plane carrying him and some of his top lieutenants went down while flying between Moscow and St Petersburg in late August.

Western leaders have suspected the Kremlin’s involvement in his death as the mercenary leader had attempted a coup in Russia just weeks before.

“Please, hear me.  Let unity decide everything openly,” the Ukrainian president said.

The war-time leader told the UN assembly that Russia has no rights to hold nuclear weapons while it continues to blackmail other nations by weaponising food.

“History shows that it was Russia who deserved nuclear disarmament. Terrorists have no right to hold nuclear weapons,” he told the UN member states gathered in New York.

He called for a global front on the war and warned of dangers from Russia to the UN General Assembly.

“The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our lands, our people, our resources into a weapon against you, against the international rules-based order. Many seats in the General Assembly hall may become empty if Russia succeeds with its treachery and aggression,” he said.

Mr Zelensky was addressing the gathering at a sensitive point in his country’s campaign to maintain international support for its fight against the invasion.

Nearly 19 months after Moscow launched its war, Ukrainian forces have stepped up a counteroffensive that has continued for three months now amid comments that it has not gone on as fast or as well as initially hoped.

“We must stand up to this naked aggression today and deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow,” US president Joe Biden earlier told the assembly.

The world must remain united in defending Ukraine, he said, warning that no nation can be secure if “we allow Ukraine to be carved up”.

This is not the first time Mr Zelensky has blamed the Russian regime under Mr Putin for Prigozhin’s death.

Earlier this month, he said Mr Putin orchestrated the killing of Wagner boss Prigozhin.

“The fact that he killed Prigozhin – at least that’s the information we all have, not any other kind – that also speaks to his rationality, and about the fact that he is weak,” he had said.

Russia will get its chance to address the General Assembly on Saturday. Its deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky was in Russia’s seat during Mr Zelensky’s address.

“Did he speak?” Mr Polyansky said when an Associated Press reporter asked about his reaction to the address. “I didn’t notice he was speaking. I was on my phone.”

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