UPDATE 1-UN allows Ukrainian Zelenskiy to address world leaders via video next week

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 16 (Reuters) – The 193-member United Nations General Assembly said Friday it will allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to address the annual meeting of world leaders next week with a pre-recorded video.

The resolution was passed with 101 votes in favour, 7 against and 19 abstentions. Russia, Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Nicaragua and Syria opposed the move.

Ukraine’s UN mission had argued that Zelenskiy “cannot personally participate in General Assembly meetings because of continued Russian aggression against Ukraine”.

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Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said Moscow has always favored “personal diplomacy at the UN” but accused its Western counterparts of double standards.

“This is at a time when the representatives of African countries, which often face similar difficulties when it comes to arriving in New York … have been denied this similar right,” Polyanskiy told the General Assembly on Friday.

Russia’s ally Belarus sought to change the decision to remove any reference to Ukraine and essentially allow all world leaders to address this year’s UN meeting via video. It was defeated, receiving only 23 votes to 67, with 27 states abstaining.

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For the past two years, world leaders have been allowed to submit video statements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year they are expected to travel to New York to speak in the UN General Assembly room.

Within a week of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine on February 24, nearly three-quarters of the General Assembly voted to reprimand Moscow and demand that it withdraw its troops. Three weeks ago, it again overwhelmingly denounced Russia for creating a “serious” humanitarian situation.

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On Friday, Ukrainian officials gave more details about what they believe was a mass cemetery containing hundreds of bodies in territory recaptured by Russian forces. Zelenskiy called the discovery evidence of war crimes committed by Russia. Moscow denies that its troops committed war crimes. (Reporting by Michelle Nicholas; editing by Doina Chiacu and Grant McCool)