As UN Security Council takes up Ukraine, a potentially dramatic meeting may be at hand – The Denver Post


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — All eyes were on the possible interaction between Ukraine’s president and Russia’s top diplomat at a U.N. Security Council meeting Wednesday: Will they clash? Will they speak? Will they avoid each other entirely?

The meeting’s topic was deeply relevant to those questions: It was about upholding the U.N. Charter in Ukraine. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres minced no words this week in reiterating that Russia’s February 2022 invasion of its smaller neighbor violated the charter’s underpinning — that the 193 U.N. member nations respect each others’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The U.N. chief briefed the 15-member council and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, making his first in-person appearance before the U.N.’s most powerful body, followed him. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was No. 11 on the list, and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was scheduled to follow him.

Zelenskyy, addressing the council in the meeting’s early minutes, accused Russia of committing a “criminal and unprovoked aggression” that violated both the norms of war and the U.N. Charter itself. Lavrov was not sitting at Russia’s seat as Zelenskyy spoke; it was occupied by Vasily Nebenzia, the country’s U.N. ambassador.

The Ukrainian leader hadn’t even begun talking when the verbal fireworks began. Nebenzia protested the decision to allow the Ukrainian leader to speak. He said Albanian President Edi Rama, this month’s council president, was trying to turn the meeting into “a one-man stand-up show,” adding that it will be “nothing more than a spectacle” — a dig at Zelenskyy’s past as a comedian.

Rama responded, to laughter, that “this is not a special operation by the Albanian presidency,” a reference to Russia’s name for its offensive against Ukraine.

Zelenskyy told the council that he would not have come if he didn’t have a proposal to end the 19-month war. He stressed that the restoration of all Ukrainian territory is the key to peace.

The meeting on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly was taking place during a Ukrainian counteroffensive, which has been slower than Kyiv hoped, with no end to the war in sight. Zelenskyy is seeking additional Western military hardware and is heading to Washington for meetings with U.S. President Joe Biden and members of Congress. Russia is reportedly digging in for a long war.

The Security Council, charged with ensuring international peace and security, has held more than 50 meetings on Ukraine, and they are almost always contentious — with lots of angry exchanges but no action. That’s because of Russia’s certain veto of any council resolution critical of what it calls its “special military operation.”

Since the war began, Zelenskyy — a former actor — has become a global figure, crisscrossing the planet both physically and virtually since the Russian invasion to plead his nation’s case as a wartime president often clad in military-style garb. Lavrov, a former longtime Russian ambassador to the United Nations, is a vigorous defender of his nation’s policies and an imposing man known for not suffering fools.

There’s no guarantee that Lavrov and Zelenskyy will physically cross paths on Wednesday. They could choose to come into the room at different times. Still, the very possibility marks a newly fraught moment for a council that has fractiously discussed the war in Ukraine many, many times.

Wednesday’s session also offered Russia a chance to respond within the United Nations to Zelenskyy’s high-profile speech Tuesday next door at the General Assembly, which is holding its annual meeting of world leaders. The Ukrainian president accused Russia of using food, energy and even children as weapons in the war — and he warned other leaders that “when hatred is weaponized against one nation, it never stops there.”

In the chair’s seat: Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, whose country currently holds the council’s rotating presidency and who chose the meeting topic.

Under council rules, the 15 council members speak – the five permanent veto-wielding countries, the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France and 10 elected members who serve two-year terms. Dozens of others also have signed up to speak Wednesday. Each member’s seat must be occupied, but any accredited diplomat or official can fill it. They often swap out several times during a meeting.

Ukraine has come under pressure from some council members, including China, to engage in talks to end the war, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives on both sides.

Zelenskyy is expected to discuss his 10-point peace plan, which would establish a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes. It would also create a European-Atlantic security architecture with guarantees for Ukraine’s independence.

The atmosphere was charged last year when Lavrov and Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba were both at a council meeting during the 2022 General Assembly gathering.

The two foreign ministers didn’t exchange any words. Lavrov arrived only minutes before his turn to speak and left immediately after. But beforehand, there was tension over the seating arrangement — a placard marking Ukraine’s seat was moved after Kuleba apparently objected to its placement next to Russia’s spot.

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