Ukraine’s leader addresses the UN


World News

September 25, 2019 - 10:29 AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Abruptly cast into the center of a political storm in the United States, Ukraine’s president steered clear of the controversy today as he made his debut speech on diplomacy’s biggest stage, focusing instead on the horrors of war and on his country’s ongoing conflict with Russia.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s address at the U.N. General Assembly came less than a day after a formal U.S. House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump was launched — a development that was sparked partly by a July 25 phone call between the two leaders.

Zelenskiy made no mention of the matter as he called for wide international support for his country, five years after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind separatists fighting in the eastern part of his country.

He warned that in an interconnected world, “there is no more ‘somebody else’s war.’”

Over time, “millions of human lives have become the price for negligence, silence and inaction or unwillingness to relinquish ambitions,” he said. “Every leader bears his share of responsibility not only for the destiny of his own country but for the whole world.”

Barely 100 days into his tenure, Zelenskiy is in a delicate spot after the phone call with Trump, the leader of one of Ukraine’s most steadfast allies.

At issue is whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from Ukraine to undermine a Democratic foe, former Vice President Joe Biden, and help his own re-election.

In the days before the phone call, Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400 million in military aid for Ukraine, prompting speculation that he was holding up the money as leverage for information on Biden.

Trump has denied that charge but acknowledged pressing Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Democrats, who control the House leadership, say they need to know whether Trump abused his office to seek a foreign government’s help in trying to dig up dirt on an opponent. Trump has denied that the funds were blocked as leverage for information on the Bidens and says he did nothing wrong, calling the matter a “witch hunt.”

In a TV interview over the weekend, Ukraine’s foreign minister denied Zelenskiy was pressured to investigate Hunter Biden. Zelenskiy’s office, however, has declined to comment on the reports.

The United States has given Ukraine millions of dollars in aid since a pro-Western government took power in Kyiv in 2014.

Zelenskiy, a popular 41-year-old comedian with no political experience, unseated incumbent Petro Poroshenko in an election this year in the nation of 45 million people. Zelenskiy campaigned on promises to fight corruption and engage Russia in order to end their conflict. The fighting has killed more than 13,000 people and displaced 1 million.