Russia set to take chair of UN security council amid Ukraine war

Russia is set to take the chair position of a United Nations Security Council meeting as it continues to wage its yearlong war on neighboring Ukraine, drawing criticism from Ukrainian leaders.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s confirmation to the top Security Council slot during an April meeting in New York “a bad joke,” as the International Criminal Court (ICC) has a warrant out for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes. 

“Russian UN Security Council presidency on April 1 is a bad joke. Russia has usurped its seat; it’s waging a colonial war; its leader is a war criminal wanted by the ICC for kidnapping children,” Kuleba said on Twitter. “The world can’t be a safe place with Russia at UNSC #BadRussianJoke #InsecurityCouncil.”

The 15 member states of the U.N. Security Council take turns in the presidency position every month. Only five seats on the council are permanent — those held by the U.S., the U.K., France, China and Russia. 

Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N. highlighted comments from the international body’s Secretary-General António Guterres calling the day of Russia’s invasion the saddest moment in his tenure as U.N. chief. 

“In fact the saddest in UN history until April 1, 2023 when, unless justice prevails, [Russia] assumes presidency of [the] Security Council. Stop raping justice & quashing UN Charter! Accountability now!” Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian diplomat Olexander Scherba called Russia taking over the Security Council “a bit like Jack the Ripper taking over at the ministry of health.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday that the administration expects Russia “to continue to use its seat on the council to spread disinformation” and urged the country “to conduct itself professionally” during its time with the presidency, according to Reuters.

“Unfortunately, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, and no feasible international legal pathway exists to change that reality,” Jean-Pierre said.

Russia’s permanent seat on the council — and with it, the power to individually veto any resolution that passes through the international body — has long been a topic of concern that was stoked by Moscow invaded its neighbor. Last February, Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have called on Moscow to cease its attack on Ukraine and withdraw all troops.

The Security Council president is responsible for setting the body’s agenda and calling meetings, though the state gains no additional power over what gets through. Russia held the rotating presidency last February, the month of its invasion.

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