Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that Russia be punished for attacking his country and assured the world that his military could drive out the invaders in a passionate address that drew a standing ovation from the U.N. General Assembly.
Zelenskyy, speaking remotely and in English on Wednesday, said Russia committed crimes against the “values that make you and me a community” in the U.N. He described grisly scenes found at hundreds of graves with men, women and children, some bound and tortured.
He dismissed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim of a willingness to negotiate an end to the 7-month-old war.
“They talk about the talks, but they announce military mobilization,” he said. “They talk about the talks but announce pseudo referendums in the occupied territories.”
He also urged the world to provide him more weapons, saying his military can drive out Russian occupiers.
“Russia will never be able to stop the course of history,” he said. “Mankind and international law are stronger than one terrorist state. Russia will be forced to end this war.”
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Other major developments:
►Russia has given its formal diplomatic approval to Lynne Tracy’s appointment as the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Thursday. President Joe Biden announced her nomination Tuesday; she will need Senate approval.
►Voting begins Friday on referendums in Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine, a precursor to Russian annexation.
►In the Donetsk province, one of the areas where referendums are scheduled, city Mayor Alexei Kulemzin said at least five people where killed Thursday when Ukrainian shelling hit a covered market and a passenger minibus.
Two Americans fighting for Ukraine have been freed in a prisoner exchange after being captured in June in the Kharkiv region, but high-profile Americans Brittney Griner and businessman Paul Whelan remain in Russian custody. Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and fellow Alabaman Alexander Drueke, 39, were released to Saudi Arabia, which brokered a swap with Russian-backed separatists that included the release of eight other prisoners from four countries. The deal was part of a larger swap included in the release of 200 Ukrainian fighters.
Huynh’s fiancé, Joy Black, told USA TODAY she got a surprise call from the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia while at work Wednesday alerting her that Huynh was there. She got to speak with Huynh, who told her he’ll go through medical checks before flying home.
“He said that he’s OK and he’s safe and healthy,” said Black, adding she was “very thankful” and “happy for the first time in, like, four months.”