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Ukraine鈥檚 top diplomat tells skeptics at the UN that his country will win the war

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) 鈥 Ukraine鈥檚 foreign minister on Friday told skeptics who believe Ukraine can鈥檛 win the war with Russia that they will be proven wrong: 鈥淯kraine will win the war.鈥

Dmytro Kuleba, speaking at the United Nations on the eve of the second anniversary of Russia鈥檚 invasion, urged the world鈥檚 nations to stand behind Ukraine. If they do, he said, victory will come 鈥渟ooner rather than later.鈥

Russia鈥檚 U.N. Ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, countered by repeating Moscow鈥檚 claim that it didn鈥檛 start the conflict. He blamed the West for fomenting it, accused Ukraine of being a tool of Western geopolitical ambitions, and vowed that Russia鈥檚 鈥渟pecial military operation鈥 won鈥檛 end until its goals are achieved.

Those goals 鈥 stated on Feb. 24, 2022, the day Russian troops crossed the border 鈥 include the de-militarization of Ukraine and ensuring its 鈥渘eutral status.鈥

AP AUDIO: Ukraine鈥檚 top diplomat tells skeptics at the UN that his country 鈥榳ill win the war鈥

At a news conference, Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba says two years ago there were doubts about his country that still remain.

The U.N. General Assembly and the Security Council are marking the anniversary with ministerial meetings as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleads for more U.S. military aid and Russian forces make new gains in eastern Ukraine.

The General Assembly has become the most important U.N. body dealing with Ukraine because the Security Council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, is paralyzed by Russia鈥檚 veto power. Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, unlike Security Council resolutions, but they serve as a barometer of world opinion.

Addressing the 193-member assembly, Kuleba recalled that over 140 nations supported resolutions backing Ukraine and calling for Russian forces to withdraw. But, he said, 鈥淢oscow鈥檚 aim is to destroy Ukraine and they鈥檙e quite outspoken about it.鈥

He said countries now saying Ukraine should negotiate with Russia and end the war are either 鈥渋ll-informed鈥 or didn鈥檛 follow events after 2014, when Russia seized Crimea and backed an armed rebellion in eastern Ukraine. The two countries, he said, held approximately 200 rounds of negotiations and made 20 cease-fire agreements.

鈥淎ll of these peace efforts ended two years ago, when Russia tore apart the Minsk process and launched its full-scale invasion,鈥 Kuleba said. 鈥淲hy would anyone suggest today that following the same logic will bring us to a different result?鈥

Zelenskyy鈥檚 10-point peace plan is 鈥渢he only serious peace proposal on the table,鈥 Kuleba said, calling on other countries to add their diplomatic weight to it. The plan calls for expelling Russian forces, establishing a special tribunal to prosecute alleged Russian war crimes and building a European-Atlantic security architecture with guarantees for Ukraine.

When Russia invaded, diplomats and experts didn鈥檛 believe Ukraine would survive. Speaking to reporters, Kuleba said he wanted to make one point clear.

鈥淭oday, the same people do not believe that Ukraine can win this war,鈥 he said. 鈥淭hey turned wrong once, and they will turn wrong again. Ukraine survived the invasion. Ukraine will win the war. And if we act collectively and jointly this will happen 鈥 sooner rather than later.鈥

Nebenzia slammed Zelenskyy鈥檚 plan.

鈥淚t is nothing other than an ultimatum to Russia and an attempt to lure as many countries as possible into endless meetings on this utopian project at any price possible,鈥 he said.

At the General Assembly, where representatives of 64 countries are scheduled to speak, there was strong support for Ukraine.

Britain鈥檚 Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he recognized that there is a sense of fatigue with the war and a compromise might seem attractive, but he said Russian President Vladimir Putin isn鈥檛 seeking compromise.

鈥淩ather, this is a neo-imperialist bully who believes might is right,鈥 he said. 鈥淚f Putin were to eke out some kind of win, the rest of the world would suffer, too. What starts in Ukraine would not end there.鈥

Poland鈥檚 Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told the assembly, 鈥淥nly our resolve can deter the neo-imperial delusions that may arise in any part of the world.鈥

鈥淲e need to stay the course until Mr. Putin understands that the days of European imperialism are gone for good,鈥 he said.

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said at Ukraine鈥檚 request his government will organize a high-level peace conference by the summer. He invited all nations to attend and work 鈥渢o find common ground for peace鈥 based on the U.N. Charter, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Neither the assembly nor the council took any action to mark the anniversary. But before the council meeting, Kuleba read a statement from more than 50 countries, while surrounded by their ministers and ambassadors, condemning Russia鈥檚 aggression, its 鈥渇lagrant violation of international law,鈥 and its attacks on civilians and the infrastructure they need to survive, 鈥渨hich may constitute war crimes.鈥

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres briefed the council, saying Russia鈥檚 full-scale invasion of Ukraine violated the U.N. Charter and international law and, two years later, 鈥渢he war in Ukraine remains an open wound at the heart of Europe.鈥

He called the invasion 鈥渁 dangerous precedent,鈥 stressing that newly independent countries in Africa didn鈥檛 change borders established by colonial powers 鈥渨ith the stroke of a pen鈥 because they knew it would open 鈥渁 Pandora鈥檚 box.鈥

The U.N. chief said the path to peace is respect for the U.N. Charter鈥檚 underlying principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, warning that the war is deepening geopolitical divides.

鈥淭he danger of the conflict escalating and expanding is very real,鈥 he said.

China鈥檚 U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun, whose country is a Russian ally, said Beijing respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and all other countries, and urged stepped-up peace efforts. He also stressed that 鈥渢he legitimate security concerns of all countries鈥 must be respected, and criticized NATO鈥檚 eastward expansion 鈥 which Moscow has strongly opposed.

Germany鈥檚 Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the Security Council, 鈥淧utin is making clear every day, every hour 鈥 that he does not want to negotiate peace. He wants to complete his conquest.鈥

And U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that through all of Russia鈥檚 鈥渓ies, Putin has tried to rewrite history, to justify the unjustifiable, to break the will of the Ukrainian people, and to break the will of the international community.鈥

鈥淲e cannot let that happen,鈥 she said.