Showdown over Ukraine exposes UN Security Council’s limitations –

A rare in-person diplomatic showdown occurred on Thursday (22 September) between Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Western partners, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, almost seven months since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Speaking at a special session of the UN Security Council (UNSC), the three chief diplomats of Ukraine, Russia and the US mostly aired grievances and traded barbs, while other council members spoke of the war’s repercussions for their countries.

The UNSC has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, comprising 15 members, each with one vote. Russia is one of the five Permanent UNSC members, together with the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China, and has veto power.

The confrontation came a day after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin ordered the mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of Russians to fight in Ukraine, moved to annex swathes of Ukrainian territory and threatened to use nuclear weapons.

Speaking to the chamber, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for such “reckless nuclear threats” to stop immediately, adding that the fact Putin chose “to fuel the fire that he started” shows his utter contempt for the United Nations.

“The international order that we are gathered here to uphold is being shattered before our eyes – we cannot and will not allow President Putin to get away with this,” he said.

“One man chose this war. One man can end it,” Blinken added. “Because if Russia stops fighting, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.”

An early exit

Lavrov, who faced off his Ukrainian and Western counterparts, including Blinken, came late, appearing only for his own speech, which lasted roughly 20 minutes and leaving immediately afterwards.

Moscow’s chief diplomat defended his country’s war and accused Kyiv and the West of directly interfering in the war by “pumping weapons into Ukraine and training its soldiers”.

“We have no doubt that Ukraine has become a totally totalitarian Nazi-like state, where the norms of international humanitarian law are flouted,” Moscow’s chief diplomat told the meeting.

“The decision to conduct a special military operation was inevitable,” Lavrov said, using Moscow’s euphemism to refer to the war.

Lavrov said that Ukraine threatens Russia’s security, adding that Russia “will never accept this.”

After Lavrov left the room, Kuleba, who spoke after him, retorted he “noticed that Russian diplomats are fleeing just like Russian soldiers.”

Officials witnessing the encounter later told reporters Lavrov’s unwillingness to stay in the room was because “he couldn’t bear to hear the clear messages” from his counterparts.

The Russian diplomat is slated to address the UN General Assembly on Saturday in what has become the most anticipated address this week as many expect him to send subtle messages about how to read Putin’s latest move.

“Russian diplomats are directly complicit because their lies incite these crimes and cover them up,” Kuleba said.

The Ukrainian diplomat accused Russia of subjecting the world to its version of the “Hunger Games.”

The food and energy insecurity caused by the Russian invasion should prompt other nations to stand with Ukraine, Kuleba said.

“We must confront these threats together. There is no place for neutrality,” he added, a reference to the many countries in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere that have so far avoided taking sides.

Other members defiant

EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, who addressed the body under a special rule, said the EU “will do whatever it takes to ensure accountability” for those who suffered during the war.

Borrell also accused Russia of “dragging the world into an economic recession and global food crisis.”He added that Moscow had already lost the war “morally and politically,” and it would also fail on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the Chinese and Indian foreign ministers called for negotiations and dialogue without taking a clear stance against Russia.

But only last week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping expressed concern to Putin about his recent war escalation.

In what was widely seen as a public break with Moscow, Western diplomats say it indicated Russia’s growing isolation, even with its perceived allies.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the body, which has met at least twenty times since then, has been unable to take any significant action on Ukraine as Russia is a permanent veto-wielding member.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, divisions ran deep among the Security Council’s permanent members, and some believed Russia’s war in Ukraine could trigger a debate about future rules within the body.

“The UN is probably at the crossroads, and Ukraine could be a game changer,” the French envoy to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Nicolas de Rivière, told EURACTIV on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Some delegates in New York reiterated support this week for the plan to reform the UN Security Council but conceded that any change would take years to process.

(Edited by Georgi Gotev)

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