Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday tried to shore up support for his country during his address at the U.N. headquarters in New York, explaining the stakes of Russia's ongoing war not only for Kyiv but also for the rest of the world.

Joining the world body's General Assembly in person for the first time since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February last year, Zelenskyy accused Moscow of "weaponizing" essentials such as food and energy, in addition to posing a nuclear threat.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses world leaders during the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 19, 2023. (Getty/Kyodo) 

Wearing his trademark khaki shirt, Zelenskyy said it is clear that Russia's manipulation of the market prices for such necessities, which has had an impact from Africa to Asia, is aimed at pressuring other countries to recognize the territories captured by Moscow.

"The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our lands, our people, our lives (and) our resources into a weapon against you, against the international rules-based order," said Zelenskyy, who gave his speech in English.

He lamented that although there are many conventions against weapons, "there are no real restrictions on weaponization."

"Many seats in the General Assembly hall may become empty if Russia succeeds with its treachery and aggression," he said, making a plea for more countries to side with Ukraine, as the current war's outcome will significantly affect them as well.

Without saying when or where, Zelenskyy disclosed that he is preparing a global peace summit, asking foreign leaders to take part in the planned event so as to demonstrate their refusal to tolerate this kind of aggression.

His appearance at the U.N. headquarters came as Ukraine is struggling to secure widespread support from developing countries and drive Russian forces from its southern and eastern areas in a counteroffensive.

A number of developing countries that have close political ties with Russia and rely on it for energy have attempted to stake out neutral positions on the war, as they are afraid of angering Moscow.

Possibly reflecting the lack of solidarity from such countries in the so-called Global South, the assembly hall was not full.

Noting Russia's history as a habitual aggressor, Zelenskyy also condemned the country for abducting Ukrainian children.

"We know the names of tens of thousands of children and have evidence on hundreds of thousands of others kidnapped by Russia in the occupied territories of Ukraine and later deported," he said. "Those children in Russia are taught to hate Ukraine and all ties with their families are broken. And this is clearly a genocide."

Before concluding his speech and drawing sustained applause from the attendees, he expressed hope that the prolonged war will be the last in the world.

"Ukraine is doing everything to ensure that after Russian aggression, no one in the world will dare to attack any nation," he said.

"Weaponization must be restrained. War crimes must be punished. Deported people must come back home. And the occupier must return to their own land," he said. "We must be united to make it."

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