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September 16, 2015

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Two years ago, on September 16, 2015, Ukraine’s Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution that called for urgent reform of the United Nations Security Council, in which Russia, one of five permanent members, holds veto power.

In its statement, the Verkhovna Rada said, “There is convincing evidence of the urgency to reform the veto [system] to prevent its abuse.” Too often, it said, veto power has been used to “cover up the crime of aggression by a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.” The resolution urged U.N. member states to take “all possible measures to stop the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

In July 2015, Russia blocked a resolution by the Security Council that would have established a tribunal to try those suspected of responsibility for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 people aboard. Russia also blocked a resolution in July of that year that would have declared the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995 that killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys, to be genocide. In 2014, Russia vetoed a resolution criticizing the Russian-orchestrated secession referendum in Crimea.

The Ukrainian campaign was an effort to build on a French movement to persuade the other four permanent Security Council members – Britain, China, Russia and the United States – not to use their veto when action is required to address a mass atrocity.

The French initiative attracted attention after Russia and China used their veto power in 2014 to block a resolution asking the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes committed in Syria, where Moscow has backed President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in a war that has killed hundreds of thousands.

Russia was critical of both the French and the Ukrainian efforts to strip Russia of its veto power. “We stand in favor of preserving rights for the five permanent Security Council members,” RIA Novosti quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying. Russia’s former ambassador to the U.N., Vitaliy Churkin, said, “We disapprove of this initiative, assuming that the right to veto is an utmost important mechanism to make the permanent members work on finding consensual solutions, and this brings success in a great number of cases.”

The timing of Kyiv’s move was to bring attention to Russia’s maneuvering within the U.N. to avoid international prosecution for its crimes in Syria and Ukraine prior to President Vladimir Putin’s first appearance in 10 years at the U.N. General Assembly session.

This year, Mr. Putin has indicated that he does not plan to attend the opening of the U.N. General Assembly session in September.

Source: “Ukraine seeks to blunt Russia’s U.N. veto power,” RFE/RL Ukrainian Service, The Ukrainian Weekly, September 27, 2015.

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