Russia takes over the presidency of the UN Security Council
On Saturday, in what some critics say sounds more like an April Fool's joke than reality, Russia assumed the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the month.
With Russia's war in Ukraine entering its 14th month, an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin and Moscow's plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus, critics are asking how Russia can to lead the most powerful body of the UN.
"The question is very clear: Can a war criminal lead the UN Security Council?" Andrius Kubilius, a Lithuanian member of the European Parliament, said during a hearing on Putin on Wednesday.
On March 17, the Hague-based International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader for his role in the abduction and illegal transfer of thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia.
"I think people are looking at it the wrong way. I think people need to understand that this month is more of a headache than an advantage for the Russians," Richard Gowan, director of UN affairs at the International Crisis Group, told VOA.
"If they try to use the presidency to create trouble for Ukrainians, or to spread their narratives about the war, they will just face a huge number of blows," he added.
The Security Council, with 15 member countries, is the most powerful body of the UN. It can make decisions about taking military action, deploying peacekeepers, imposing sanctions on a country or individual, and can recommend the investigation of possible war crimes cases at the International Criminal Court.
Members of the Security Council assume the presidency on a rotating basis, in alphabetical order (based on the English language). The last time Russia held the presidency was February 2022. On the 24th day of his presidency, President Putin launched a so-called "special military operation" in Ukraine, committing a flagrant violation of the UN Charter and international law.
Rwanda is the only country to have lost its presidency in 1994 due to genocide in the country, according to the Security Council Report, an institute that studies the transparency and effectiveness of this UN body. At the time, Rwanda was a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Instead of Rwanda, Spain took over the next presidency.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that a country that "flagrantly violates the UN Charter" and attacks its neighbor has no place on the Security Council but has "no possible legal recourse international" to avoid this.
Ukraine is outraged that Russia is in the Security Council, and especially now that it has the next presidency. The Foreign Minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, said that Moscow's presidency is a "serious joke"./VOA