A flag is seen on a building during the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva A flag is seen on a building during the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva  (REUTERS)

Russia takes over U.N. Security Council, prompting outrage

Russia has taken over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council despite war torn Ukraine urging members to block the move. As a result, the Security Council is now being led by a nation whose president is subject to an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes and who places nuclear weapons in Belarus.

By Stefan J. Bos

Russia took over the rotating monthly presidency of the 15-member United Nations Security Council on Saturday despite its war in Ukraine. 

That prompted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to describe the move as "the worst joke ever." He noted that "the presidency of Russia in the U.N. Security Council began on the 1st of April." 

Kuleba added: "Frankly speaking, you can not imagine a worse joke for April Fools Day. It is the worst joke ever that the country that systematically violated all fundamental rules of international security is presiding over a body whose only mission is to safeguard and protect international security."   

Russia's presidency comes hours after a fierce debate in the Security Council about Moscow placing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which borders Ukraine and several NATO countries. 

Robert Wood, the U.S. alternate representative to the U.N., condemned the move. "President Putin is escalating Russia's dangerous and destabilizing behavior. By now threatening to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus, he has, once again, reminded the world of his disregard for international law, including the U.N Charter," he told the Security Council. 

"Russia's suggestion that this intended deployment is somehow justified because of the use of armor-piercing ammunition is ludicrous. To state the obvious: armor-piercing ammunition is in no way analogous to tactical nuclear weapons," Wood added.  

But Russia's ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, said it responded to the West's aggressive actions and America's stationing of nuclear weapons in Europe. 

'Ensuring security'

He stressed that placing tactical nuclear weapons "is to ensure the security of the Russian Federation and Belarus." 

The ambassador added "that this [increasing security] is precisely the direction of the measures announced by [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin, which have so frightened the Zelensky regime and its Western sponsors," a reference to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. "Or did you seriously expect that we would not properly respond to your provocative and aggressive actions?", Nebenzya wondered. 

Those remarks didn't impress Ukraine's U.N. ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya who said he would stay away from the Security Council in April except when there is an "issue of a critical national security interest."

The last time Russia presided over the U.N. Security Council was in February last year when it invaded Ukraine. 

Since then, the international criminal court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Putin for alleged war crimes that Moscow denies. 

Yet, despite the misery, there was some hopeful news for Ukraine: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to grant Ukraine favorable funding worth $15.6 billion. 

It's the financial organization's first known loan to a country at war.

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02 April 2023, 02:37