The UN Security Council met on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, where Russia has invaded and occupied parts of the country since 2014. The meeting was marked by a heated exchange between the Russian ambassador and the Albanian prime minister, who chaired the session.
Zelenskiy denied the floor by Russia
The meeting was supposed to feature the first in-person appearance of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the Security Council, but he was prevented from speaking by Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who objected to his participation. Nebenzia argued that Zelenskiy was not a member of the council and that his presence would violate the rules of procedure.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who is serving as the president of the council for the month of September, responded with a sarcastic remark at Russia, which has long denied that its invasion of Ukraine was a war, but rather a “special military operation”.
“I want to assure our Russian colleagues and everyone here that this is not a special operation by the Albanian presidency,” Rama said, eliciting some laughter from the room. “There is a solution for this,” Rama continued, addressing Nebenzia directly: “If you agree, you stop the war and President Zelenskiy will not take the floor.”
Nebenzia did not agree. He accused Rama of making politically charged statements instead of acting as a neutral guardian of procedure. He also dismissed the meeting as a show and criticized the Western countries for supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Zelenskiy calls for stripping Russia of its veto power
After the verbal clash, Zelenskiy was given the floor to address the council. He denounced Russia’s aggression and called for an end to its occupation of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine. He also urged the international community to increase its pressure on Moscow and to provide more assistance to Kyiv.
Zelenskiy also made a bold proposal: to strip Russia of its veto power as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. He argued that Russia’s use of the veto has blocked any meaningful action by the council to resolve the conflict and has violated the principles of the UN Charter.
“Russia cannot be an aggressor and a peacemaker at the same time,” Zelenskiy said. “Russia cannot be a party to the conflict and a mediator at the same time. Russia cannot be an occupier and a guarantor of security at the same time.”
Zelenskiy’s proposal was met with applause from some members of the council, but also with strong opposition from Russia and its allies.
Lavrov defends Russia’s actions and veto right
Appearing in the room after Zelenskiy left, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended his country’s actions and veto right. He claimed that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine was justified by its national security interests and by the alleged threat posed by Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO and the European Union.
Lavrov accused Kyiv and its Western backers of selectively following the principles of the 1945 UN Charter only when it suits them. He also blamed them for escalating the tensions and provoking violence in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting against Ukrainian forces.
Lavrov rejected any attempt to change the status quo of the Security Council or to limit Russia’s veto power. He said that such proposals were unrealistic and counterproductive, and that they would only undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the council.
“The Security Council is not a place for ultimatums or blackmail,” Lavrov said. “It is a place for dialogue and cooperation.”
The meeting ended without any concrete outcome or resolution. The council members expressed their views and positions on the situation in Ukraine, but failed to reach any consensus or agreement on how to end the crisis.