Following a series of resolutions condemning and deploring the actions of the Russian forces in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted the UN and shared some of his criticisms of the United Nations during his speech at the Japanese Parliament last March 23.

Zelensky shared his frustration with the international body, saying that the institution has failed to stop the Russian Federation’s unjust conquest of Ukraine, echoing online sentiments of people all over the world who were well aware of the UN’s lack of “teeth” to enforce resolutions.

“You see that international institutions have not worked,” the President said. “What can they do? They need reform.” 

Since the start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky has called on the United Nations, the European Union (EU), and NATO to support the Ukrainian defense effort, which has succeeded in stalemating the Russian advance. NATO has recently estimated that 40,000 Russian troops were either killed, wounded, missing, or taken as POWs by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The number of casualties was estimated to be around 7,000 to 15,000 troops, signaling that estimates by the Ukrainian media, western media, and pro-Kremlin media (which was allegedly hacked) had been correct.

The United States and its allies were quick to slap Moscow with economic sanctions as a response to the invasion. These countries have also sent military and humanitarian aid directly to Ukraine. The US is one of the top donors to the country with its recent $800 million military support package. More so, Biden had recently passed the $1.5 trillion government funding bill, inclusive of $13.6 billion in assistance to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his speech at the Japanese Parliament where he criticized the UN for being ineffective in enforcing its resolutions (Screenshot from 日テレNEWS YouTube Account). Source:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his speech at the Japanese Parliament where he criticized the UN for being ineffective in enforcing its resolutions (Screenshot from 日テレNEWS YouTube Account)

On the international stage, the United Nations have condemned the Russian advance and ordered it to stop on two separate occasions. The first occasion was during the historic emergency UN General Assembly which concluded in a landslide vote to stop Moscow’s aggression. The other time was in the UN’s international court, which debunked the legitimacy of Russia’s genocide claims of Ukraine and ordered the end of the so-called “special military operation.”

However, both proclamations have been symbolic so far, unable to yield any cooperation from the Russian Federation, given the lack of avenues for these institutions to enforce their rulings.

Even with the resistance of the Ukrainians against the Russian army, casualties continue to rise, with countless communities and civilians ravaged by war, millions of refugees forced out of their homes, and thousands of lives lost, including children.

“They need an injection of honesty. To become effective. To really decide and really influence, not just discuss,” Zelensky added.

This is not the first time the Ukrainian leader criticized the UN for its ineffectiveness. In 2021, Zelensky spoke about how the UN was mishandling the world’s most crucial issues. International crises, such as climate change, hunger, and poverty, were not being addressed with the proportional global power the institutions were thought to have possessed.

“The world simply is throwing all those misfortunes into a big bag, and it’s now already ripping at the seams,” Zelensky told the world leaders at the UN General Assembly. “The U.N. is like a retired superhero who’s long forgotten how great they once were.”

Fukushima and Chemical Warfare Flashbacks

The Ukrainian president shared his concerns that Russian attacks on nuclear facilities in Chernobyl could lead to another Fukushima incident. The catastrophe displaced thousands of nearby inhabitants and caused other countries to reconsider the use of nuclear energy.

“It will take years after Russian troops leave Ukraine to investigate the damage they have done to Chernobyl. What sites of radioactive materials disposal were damaged. And how radioactive dust spreads on the planet.”

There are four other nuclear power plants in Ukraine totaling over 15 nuclear units. All are under threat. The Russian troops have already fired rounds into the compound of Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhya.

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Zelensky also compared Russia’s threats of using chemical weapons in Ukraine to the time when a Japanese cult in 1995 used the nerve gas sarin that killed 14 people in Tokyo’s subway system and injured nearly 6,000 others.

Praise for Japan

In his address to the Japanese Parliament, Zelensky thanked the swift response by the Japanese government to reprimand Russia for its aggression.

“Our capitals are separated by a distance of 8 thousand 193 kilometers. On average, it’s 15 hours on a plane… On February 24, I did not see any distance. Even a millimeter between our capitals. Even a second between our feelings. Because you immediately came to our aid. And I’m grateful to you for that.”

Zelensky noted that Japan was the first Asian country to take up such action and urged its lawmakers to continue its support of Ukraine’s struggle. Although the Japanese government has been swift in its response to help Ukraine, questions remain regarding the extent of their aid given its pacifist constitution.

He also implored the Japanese government to do more and expand their economic sanctions, saying:

“To stop the tsunami of brutal invasion, trade with Russia must be banned, and companies must leave the Russian market so that money is not spent on the Russian military.”

Nonetheless, Japan’s response is a stark contrast to its attitude during the Russian occupation and subsequent annexation of Crimea in a time when the Japanese politicians received flak for being lukewarm against Russian hostilities.

Japan and Russia are also currently involved in a territorial dispute over islands close to Hokkaido. The dispute dates back to World War II when Russia occupied part of the island as its part in a late offensive against Japan. Following the war the Russians refused to return the territory to Japan and began building military bases on it. Reports on Monday said that the Russians had ended negotiations with Japan regarding the islands, likely because of the latter’s participation in imposing economic sanctions on Moscow.