Confrontation between Zelensky, Russian diplomats threatens at UN


Ukraine’s pres. On Wednesday, Volodymyr Zelensky will come face to face with top Russian diplomats for the first time since his country was invaded last year. The United Nations (UN) Security Council meets on Wednesday and the battle orders have been drawn up for a potentially dramatic meeting.

Zelensky traveled to New York for the annual UN General Assembly. He gave a speech there on Tuesday in his characteristic camouflage and pleaded with the world to stand up against Russia.

On Wednesday, he will address a special session of the powerful Security Council on the war. Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and has veto rights against any decisions.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, also arrived in New York on Tuesday, with state media saying he flew a circuitous route to avoid European airspace.

It is unclear whether Russia’s top diplomat – himself a former UN ambassador – will attend the session of the Security Council and look Zelensky in the eye.

The potentially explosive situation “could create one of those iconic UN moments”, says Marti Flacks, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Two other permanent members, the US and France, will be represented by their own top diplomats: Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken and his counterpart Catherine Colonna.

Albania, a staunch supporter of Ukraine, is the current president of the Security Council and has agreed to speech slots for a whopping 60 representatives, according to a business list seen by AFP.

It will be the most direct meeting between Russia and Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor in February last year.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who rarely travels to the UN, is also not attending this meeting this year. He has also avoided other high-level diplomatic meetings, while Western countries try to isolate him, and he faces a warrant from the International Criminal Court for his arrest.

Ask the world for support

Zelensky said on Tuesday that Russia’s deportation of Ukrainian children – which led to the warrant against Putin – was a form of “genocide”.

Zelensky argues that the war is in the broad world interest, because Russia has turned food and energy into a weapon. This includes the suspension of a UN-backed agreement that allows Ukrainian grain to sail safely through the Black Sea.

“For the first time in modern history, we have the chance to end the aggression on the condition of the country that was attacked,” Zelensky said in a speech that was met with applause, led by Western nations. Elsewhere, however, numerous other seats were empty.

Pres. Joe Biden of the USA warned in his own speech on Tuesday that Putin wants the world to “get tired” of supporting Ukraine.

“If we allow Ukraine to be divided, is the independence of any other country safe?” Biden asked.

“We must stand up against this clear aggression today to deter those who try to be aggressors tomorrow.”

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, says the world must be involved because the war has “unbearable consequences” for everyone. But he also warned against Russian-backed calls to end the war on Russian terms by keeping parts of Ukrainian territory.

“We must guard against false solutions that only mean peace in the name of peace,” says Scholz.

“Let us not forget that Russia is responsible for this war. And it is Russia’s president who can end it at any stage with a single order.”

However, some developing countries are critical of the attention given to Ukraine. The country has already received about $43 billion in military aid from the US alone.

“It is a serious charge against the international community that we can spend so much on war, but cannot support actions that can meet the basic needs of billions of people,” said South Africa’s pres. Cyril Ramaphosa said.