September 25, 2015

Ukraine seeks to blunt Russia’s U.N. veto power

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On September 17, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.N. Yuriy Sergeyev tweeted that thus far 70 countries of the U.N. General Assembly’s 193 members are in favor of stripping Russia of its veto power on the U.N. Security Council.

Ukraine has stepped up its effort to restrict Russia’s use of its veto in the U.N. Security Council, which Kyiv says has enabled the Kremlin to block international action to punish Moscow for “aggression.”

In a resolution unanimously adopted on September 16, the Ukrainian Parliament called for urgent reform of the Security Council, in which Russia holds veto powers as one of the five permanent members.

“There is convincing evidence of the urgency to reform the veto [system] to prevent its abuse,” the Verkhovna Rada resolution said.

It said the veto has too often 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.”

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine last year after sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced by about 100 U.N. member states as illegitimate; it has supported separatists in a conflict with Ukrainian forces that has killed more than 7,900 people since April 2014.

In July, Russia blocked a resolution that would have established a tribunal to try those suspected of responsibility for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, which killed all 298 people aboard. Kyiv and the West suspect separatists shot the jet down with a Russian-supplied missile system.

Last year, Russia vetoed a resolution criticizing the secession referendum in Crimea.

Also in July, Russia blocked a resolution that would have declared the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995, in which some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed, to be genocide.

The Ukrainian campaign appears to be an effort to build on a French effort to persuade the other four permanent 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 last year to block a resolution asking the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes committed in Syria, where Moscow has backed President Bashar al-Assad throughout a devastating civil war.

On September 4, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Voice of America that Russia should be stripped of its veto power in the U.N. Security Council.

Russia has criticized both the French initiative and the Ukrainian campaign.

“We stand in favor of preserving rights for the five permanent Security Council members,” the state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying.

Interfax quoted Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin as saying the French initiative had a “political subtext.”

“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,” said Mr. Churkin.

Kyiv’s efforts to see Moscow stripped of its veto power come ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first appearance at the U.N. General Assembly session in 10 years, amid persistent tension over the conflict in Ukraine and signs of a Russian military build-up in Syria.

Mr. Putin is expected to speak at the General Assembly on September 28, a day before Mr. Poroshenko.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse, RIA Novosti and Interfax.

Copyright 2015, RFE/RL Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036; www.rferl.org (see http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine-seeks-end-russia-un-veto/27252114.html).