Russia’s Lavrov hosts UN meeting on ‘international peace’, heavily criticized by Western diplomats

(CNN) Western diplomats lashed out Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Without the prompting of his country Attack on Ukraine During a face-to-face meeting held by Moscow’s top diplomat United Nations Security Council on Monday.

Lavrov took charge of the meeting, which was titled “Maintaining International Peace and Security,” as Russia currently holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council. Russia last chaired the Security Council in February 2022, when it launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The UN ambassadors to the US, UK and Switzerland all used their speeches at the meeting to condemn Russia’s invasion. The three women — Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the United States, Barbara Woodward of Britain and Pascale Bariswill of Switzerland — have all voiced strong, direct criticism of Russia and Lavrov, at times pointing directly at Russia’s top diplomats.

“Today our hypocritical inviter, Russia, invaded its neighbor Ukraine and struck at the very heart of the UN Charter. This illegal, unprovoked and unnecessary war is in direct opposition to our most shared principles of aggression and territorial aggression. It will never be acceptable,” said Thomas-Greenfield. .

“As we sit here, that aggression continues. As we sit here, Russian forces are killing and injuring civilians. As we sit here, Russian forces are destroying critical infrastructure in Ukraine. As we sit here, the next Bucha, “The next Mariupol, the next Kherson, the next war crime, the next atrocity,” he added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chairs a Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York on April 24, 2023.

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned Russia’s actions.

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“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, is causing massive suffering and devastation to the country and its people and adding to the global economic displacement triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said. Next to Lavrov.

Russian diplomats have been largely cut off from various international conferences since Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year. However, the leadership of the UN’s most powerful body, the Security Council, rotates alphabetically among its 15 member states. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States have five permanent seats on the Council. The remaining 10 members are elected by the UN General Assembly for two-year terms.

Russia assumed the presidency on April 1, an event many diplomats described as an “April Fool’s joke.”

They attended the meeting held on Monday Elizabeth Whelan, His brother Paul Whelan has been detained in Russia for more than four years. The US believes Whelan was wrongly detained. The U.S. government was unable to secure Whelan’s release last year when it brought home two other Americans the U.S. said were wrongfully detained in Russia — Trevor Reed in April and Brittney Griner in December.

Elizabeth Whelan sits in the gallery during Monday’s meeting of the UN Security Council.

EU countries issued a joint statement ahead of the meeting, condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine and criticizing Lavrov’s appearance at the meeting.

“Russia is trying to portray itself as a defender of the UN Charter and multilateralism. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is cynical,” said Olaf Skoog, EU representative to the UN. “We all know that when Russia destroys, we build. When they violate, we defend.”

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In his opening remarks, Lavrov made unsubstantiated accusations against Ukraine and its Western allies, blaming the conflict on them.

“As during the Cold War, we have reached a dangerous, perhaps even more dangerous threshold,” Lavrov said, charging that “the United States and its allies” must “abandon diplomacy and clarify relations on the battlefield.”

Lavrov has repeatedly described the Ukrainian government as “monarchists” and the “Nazi Kiev regime”, which Russia has repeatedly claimed to justify its illegal occupation. Lavrov criticized the West for not recognizing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea as Russian territory “despite the fact that a referendum was held there”.

Russia forcibly annexed Crimea in 2014 by holding a fake referendum. Ukraine and its Western allies consider Ukrainian territory occupied territory. The UN overwhelmingly rejected the referendum as illegitimate and the annexation illegal.

CNN’s Richard Roth and Jennifer Deaton contributed reporting.

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