July 14, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for reforming the United Nations Security Council during an address to the body Wednesday, urging it to suspend the veto power Russia has used to deadlock the council in responding to the Kremlin’s war against Kyiv.

Veto power applies to the five permanent members of the Security Council, including Russia. The Kremlin’s U.N. ambassador has used the power to reject any resolution that seeks to condemn Moscow or impose costs for its invasion of Ukraine — from its 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea to its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

“We should recognize that the U.N. finds itself in a deadlock on the matters of aggression. Humankind no longer pins its hopes on the U.N.,” Zelensky said in a speech at the Security Council.

“Ukrainian soldiers now are doing at the expense of their blood what the U.N. Security Council should do by its voting; they’re stopping Russia and upholding the principles of the U.N.”

Zelensky called for empowering the General Assembly in votes to overcome the Security Council veto. Security Council resolutions, when passed, can impose real-world consequences like sanctions or authorizing the use of force, including peacekeeping missions.

The General Assembly has voted on resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion and calling for its withdrawal — though these are nonbinding and serve as records of statements.

The Ukrainian president also called for expanding the number of permanent members to the Security Council, a reform idea that is backed by the U.S. and other nations but with little consensus on how best to expand the council. The council has seats for 10 nonpermanent members that are elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.

In addition to its veto power, Russia often tries to frustrate the work of the Security Council by pushing back against procedures. Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vasily Nebenzya delayed the opening of Wednesday’s session by lobbing objections at Zelensky’s appearance, arguing it did not follow typical procedures of the council.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who chaired the meeting, pushed back.

“I must say that, coming from you, all this lecture of violating rules in this building is quite an impressive shoot,” Rama said. “But as far as you repeat it, many times that the violation here is about President Zelensky speaking before the council members, there is a solution for this. If you agree you stop the war and President Zelensky will not take the floor.”

Zelensky spoke to the U.N. body following a speech in the General Assembly the day before, where he warned the organization’s 193-member states that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine will not stop at its borders.

“Many seats in the General Assembly Hall may become empty if Russia succeeds with its treachery and aggression,” he said.

The Ukrainian president will next travel to Washington, D.C., where he will hold meetings with President Biden and members of Congress in an effort to rally ongoing military and financial support pushing back against Russia’s war in his country.

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