The UN Security Council’s first high-level meeting on Ukraine since the
start of the war on Feb. 24 in New York was full of emotion.
Fewer voices were calling to end the war in Ukraine by imposing a ceasefire and returning to diplomacy, which would now cement the Russian occupation of Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, and parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
Instead, most of the delegations stood for the end of the war on just terms and to ensure Russia’s accountability for atrocities its forces have committed in Ukraine during a Sept. 22 meeting in New York, organized by French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna.
Security Council members either reiterated their support of Ukraine’s sovereignty or stated that despite the growing costs of the conflict, they will support Ukraine’s right to defend itself from an unprovoked invasion.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for the establishment of a special tribunal for Russian crimes of aggression against Ukraine.
“No other nation craves peace more than Ukraine," Kuleba said.
"We have never wanted this war, we simply wanted to have a normal life. But there will be no peace without justice.”
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan stated that prosecutors and judges of the ICC guarantee that justice will be served for war criminals. He also shared his findings from Ukraine.
“The picture I’ve seen so far is troublesome," Khan stated.
I have been to Ukraine three times, and I’ve seen destruction, crime, suffering, When I went to Bucha, the bodies I saw were not fake. When I went to Kharkiv, bombs that landed there were not fake.”
As an impartial investigator, Khan said justice is not political. It is a vindication of the fundamental rights of all humanity.
“Echoes of Nuremberg should be heard today,” Khan added, referencing the trials of Nazi war criminals following Germany's defeat in World War 2.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov showed up only an hour after the start of the UNSC meeting on Ukraine. Lavrov repeated Russian propaganda narratives about Euromaidan being a coup d’état, Nazis in Ukraine, and the supposed repression of the Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Ukraine. He said all the accusations against Russia are racist and at the same time said Russia attacked Ukraine as it has turned into an “anti-Russia”.
Lavrov also claimed evidence of Russian atrocities in Bucha and then Izyum, which Ukrainian investigators have uncovered in the recently liberated city of Kharkiv Oblast, is fake.
“Why no one is talking about Bucha anymore?” Lavrov said minutes after Khan and many others mentioned Bucha atrocities.
“Ask Kyiv why it hasn’t published the list of people supposedly killed in Bucha. Why?”
Ukraine published the list of victims’ names back in April.
After his rant, Lavrov left the Security Council meeting. Other delegates condemned Vladimir Putin’s recent decision to start a partial mobilization in Russia and annex occupied parts of Ukraine via sham referendums.
They also reaffirmed their support to Ukraine despite the growing costs of the Russian war, such as surging energy prices and the lack of food in developing countries, caused by Russia’s blockade of the Ukrainian Black Sea Ports, lifted only in July when Russia, UN, Ukraine, and Turkey signed the Black Sea Grain deal.
Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana, said that “every bullet, every shell that hits targets in Ukraine, hits our pockets in Africa.”
Kuleba noted that the Black Sea Grain initiative has already brought some relief to Africa, as more than 200 cargo vessels with Ukrainian grain have already left the Ukrainian ports to deliver long-awaited relief to the people of Africa, Iran, Libya, and other countries.
Ukraine wants both the commercial and humanitarian corridors to keep working, while Russia threatens not to prolong the deal after it expires in November.
One of the key demands of the Kremlin is to allow Russians to export ammonia fertilizers through the Ukrainian Tolyatti-Odesa pipeline on the Black Sea coast. Ukraine has so far not commented on this demand.
China, Gabon, Mexico, and India called for dialogue with Russia, calling the continuous war a step into the abyss. Mexico offered to create one more platform for negotiations under its mediation.
Another topic discussed during the Security Council was the developing institutional crisis in the UNSC itself.
“The aggression that Russia decided to use against Ukraine, that only wanted to live freely, violates the UN charter. Each one of these principles was violated with the start of the war in February,” French Minister for Foreign Affairs Colonna said.
While there are ongoing private talks in the UN on whether it is possible to impose veto right limitations for Russia, which controls a permanent seat on the Security Council, publicly the delegates did not specify how exactly Russia could be held accountable for its violations of UN charters.
Kuleba pointed out that Russia enjoys impunity while using the status it illegally inherited after the USSR fell in 1991.
“Russia is shameless," he said.
"Armed with a veto right and the feeling of total impunity, Russians are confident that they can get away with anything and they are entitled to do anything they want. They think this seat allows them to violate borders in a nineteenth-century style imperialist conquest.”
According to him, the UN today is mostly focusing on crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
“But if anyone thinks they are the only ones ready to kill, torture, rape, cut off genitals, they are wrong," he said.
"Russian diplomats are directly complicit because their lies incite these crimes and cover them up."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the fact that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin picked this week to announce Russia's partial mobilization, issue nuclear threats, and move forward with plans to annex Ukrainian territories, as most of the world gathers at the United Nations, shows his utter contempt for the UN Charter, for the General Assembly, and the Security Council.
“The very international order that we have gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes," Blinken noted.
"We cannot – we will not – allow President Putin to get away with it,."
Defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is about much more than standing up for one nation’s right to choose its path, fundamental as that right is, Blinken added.
“It’s also about protecting an international order where no nation can redraw the borders of another by force,” the U.S. diplomat added.