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UN votes to allow Ukraine’s Zelenskyy to give virtual speech

In this image from video provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, early Saturday, April 2, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

(AP) — The U.N. General Assembly voted Friday to allow Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to deliver a pre-recorded address to next week’s gathering of world leaders because of his need to deal with the war following Russia’s invasion, making an exception to its requirement that all leaders speak in person.

The 193-member world body approved Zelenskky’s virtual address by a vote of 101-7 with 19 abstentions.

The assembly first voted on an amendment put forward by Belarus, a close ally of Russia, that would have allowed any leader facing exceptional difficulties and unable to attend to deliver a pre-recorded address. It was defeated by a vote of 23-67 with 27 abstentions.

The document that was approved expresses concern that leaders of “peace-loving“ U.N. sovereign nations can’t participate in person “for reasons beyond their control owing to ongoing foreign invasion, aggression, military hostilities that do not allow safe departure from and return to their countries, or the need to discharge their national defense and security duties and functions.”

The document, which had more than 50 co-sponsors, permits Zelenskyy to submit a pre-recorded statement to be played in the General Assembly hall. It stresses that this will not set a precedent for future high-level assembly meetings.

The document refers to the General Assembly resolution adopted at an emergency special session on March 2 — six days after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine — demanding an immediate halt to Moscow’s offensive and withdrawal of all Russian troops. The vote on the resolution, titled “Aggression against Ukraine,” was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual meeting of world leaders at the General Assembly was all virtual in 2020 and hybrid in 2021. But this year the assembly decided that all speeches must be in person.

The proposal to let Zelenskyy pre-record his statement required a majority vote in the assembly. On the latest speakers list, Zelenskyy is to deliver his address to the assembly on the afternoon of Sept. 21, but that could change.