June 25, 2024

By Gabriela Baczynska

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -It was to be Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy’s first in- person appearance at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Moscow’s invasion of his country when Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia objected to him taking the floor at the start of the meeting.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, serving as president of the tense session, responded with a gibe at Moscow, which has long said the invasion does not amount to a war but was a mere “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, known for a piercing sense of humor, said to muted laughter across 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 went on to say the session was a show and criticized Rama for what he said was making politically charged statements rather than acting as a neutral guardian of procedure.

After the session, Zelenskiy thanked Rama on social media, saying the Albanian, who is both an artist and former basketball player, “showed the world how to correctly handle Russia, its lies, and its hypocrisy.”

In seeking to justify its invasion, Moscow has said Ukraine’s ambitions to integrate with the West – including NATO – pose a threat to Russia’s national security, an assertion that Kyiv and its allies deny as a baseless pretext to attack.

When given the floor after the back-and-forth, Zelenskiy asked Russia be stripped of its veto right as one of five permanent members of the post-World War Two U.N. Security Council as punishment for attacking Ukraine.

Appearing in the room after Zelenskiy left, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Moscow’s use of the veto as legitimate, accusing Kyiv and the West of selectively following principles of the 1945 U.N. Charter only when it suits them.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Howard Goller)

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