India votes against Russia to allow virtual participation of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in UNSC meeting

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New York: India joined the western nations on Wednesday 24 August and voted in favouor of virtual participation of the President of Ukraine in the meeting of the UN Security Council while the only country that opposed the President’s participation was Russia.

Objecting to the virtual participation of President of Ukraine the Representative of Russian Federation ASSILY A. NEBENZIA, said that his country does not oppose the President’s participation; rather, he said that such participation must be in-person. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council decided to work virtually, but such meetings were informal and, after the pandemic’s peak, the Council returned to the provisional rules of procedure. Stressing that the Council cannot make an exception for one country or one person, he pointed out that the meeting was announced a week in advance, that the President of Ukraine has travelled around the country to meet foreign delegations, that Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs has travelled abroad and that the Secretary-General has recently travelled to Ukraine. He reiterated that his country’s objection pertains specifically to the President’s participation by video teleconference, and called for a procedural vote on this matter.

At the outset of the meeting, the representative of the Russian Federation requested a procedural vote concerning the President of Ukraine’s participation in today’s meeting by video teleconference.  Following statements by representatives of the Russian Federation and Albania, the Council extended an invitation to the President of Ukraine to participate in the meeting via video teleconference by a vote of 13 in favour to one against (Russian Federation), with one abstention (China).

Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Gabon, Ghana, India, Mexico and China, along with the European Union in its capacity as observer.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) voiced regret that Council members had spoken out against complying with the rules of the organ. “We can understand the logic of Kyiv’s Western backers…,” he said, expressing disappointment that other members contributed to the erosion of the Council’s very foundation and practices. Despite his delegation’s position, it will hear Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy because “we have something to say to him as well”. He hoped that Mr. Zelenskyy would remain until the conclusion of the meeting. “We shall see whether Mr. Zelenskyy will be able to come to the seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly as the head of the Ukrainian delegation or not, as the representative of Albania has claimed,” he said.

Briefings

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, briefing the Council on his recent visit to Ukraine, said that the Black Sea Grain Initiative is progressing well. Dozens of ships have sailed in and out of Ukrainian ports — loaded with over 720,000 metric tons of grains and other food products — and he recalled seeing wheat pouring into the holds of cargo ships and the United Nations flag flying on vessels bound for the Horn of Africa where millions of people are at risk of famine. He said that the Initiative is a powerful demonstration of what can be achieved “when we put people first”, also spotlighting the other part of the deal that allows Russian food and fertilizer unimpeded access to global markets. All Governments and the private sector must cooperate to bring these goods to market, as there will not be enough food in 2023 if the fertilizer market is not stabilized in 2022. He also stressed that, while getting more food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and the Russian Federation at reasonable costs is vital to calm commodity markets, the shipment of grain and other foodstuffs “won’t mean much if countries cannot afford them”. He therefore called for a massive scaling-up of support to developing countries “getting hammered by the global food crisis”.

He went on to express grave concern over the situation in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, underscoring that “the warning lights are flashing”. Any actions that might endanger the physical integrity, safety or security of the plant are unacceptable, and any further escalation of the situation could lead to self-destruction. He called for the security of the plant to be ensured, for the facility to be re-established as purely civilian infrastructure and for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct a mission to the site as soon as possible. Also expressing concern over alleged violations of international humanitarian law, he stressed that such law protects prisoners of war and that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must have access to such prisoners wherever they are held. Further, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine must be able to freely conduct its work to find the facts through safe, secure and unfettered access to all relevant places, persons and evidence.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, President of Ukraine, said that the Russian Federation has placed the world on the brink of nuclear catastrophe by turning the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant into a war zone. The plant has six reactors — only one exploded at Chernobyl — and IAEA must take permanent control of the situation as soon as possible. Further, he called on the Russian Federation to cease its “nuclear blackmail” and completely withdraw from the plant. While he welcomed the fact that the Russian Federation was forced to accept the international community’s terms to allow grain exports from three Ukrainian ports, he emphasized that this development only relieves tensions in global food markets — it does not remove the threat of food insecurity. Expressing regret that the international community still must fight in the twenty-first century to save tens of millions of people from artificial hunger “provoked by a single country with its insane aggression”, he called on the international community to do everything possible in the coming weeks to expand the existing grain initiative. He also pointed out that the Russian Federation is deliberately trying to impose “energy poverty” on tens of millions of people by deliberately raising energy prices.

While noting that different parts of the world have different approaches and values, he underscored that life, peace and economic prosperity have value everywhere in the world. All countries — if they respect themselves — punish murder.

LINDA THOMAS GREENFIELD (United States) said the Russian Federation’s goal is as clear as ever: to dismantle Ukraine as a geopolitical entity and erase it from the world map. Its disinformation campaigns are increasingly being weaponized to prepare for further attempts to annex Ukrainian territory. However, the international community will never recognize the Russian Federation’s attempt to change Ukraine’s borders by force, she underscored. Noting that Ukraine had an impeccable record of nuclear energy safety and security at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, she said the Russian Federation recklessly attacked and seized control of that site by force, risking nuclear disaster. She voiced concern about Moscow’s “so-called filtration operation”, which involves the systematic and forced deportation of Ukrainian civilians to remote areas of the Russian Federation.

RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) said her country just dispatched its twelfth humanitarian aid consignment to Ukraine, including haemostatic bandages to stem bleeding from deep wounds, a specific request from Kyiv. Over the last six months, India has dispatched 11 consignments — 97.5 tons — of aid to Ukraine, as well as to Romania, the Republic of Moldova, Slovakia and Poland. She called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and encouraged talks between the two sides. Further, the ground situation calls for a sustained priority on humanitarian relief, she said, stressing that India places the highest priority on such requests and that these measures should never be politicized. India will partner with countries to mitigate economic hardships, as the impact of the conflict is not limited to Europe, but rather exacerbating food, fertilizer and fuel security concerns. Underscoring the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility in relation to food grains, she said that in the last three months, India has exported 1.8 million tons of wheat to Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Yemen, and is working to increase fertilizer production. She advocated efforts to ensure that global fuel supplies are commensurate with demand. “Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination,” she affirmed, stressing that India will step forward whenever the global South is constrained on aspects of food, health and energy security in a manner that does not take undue advantage of countries in distress.

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