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For all its flaws, don’t ‘turn back on UN,’ says Ukraine envoy

Ukraine's envoy to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks at a UN Security Council meeting on February 6, 2023
Ukraine's envoy to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks at a UN Security Council meeting on February 6, 2023 - Copyright AFP/File Yasuyoshi CHIBA
Ukraine's envoy to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya speaks at a UN Security Council meeting on February 6, 2023 - Copyright AFP/File Yasuyoshi CHIBA

The United Nations is deeply flawed but it has proven effective in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the embattled nation’s UN envoy told AFP on Thursday.

Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said there may be no other country in the world where citizens pay such heed to debates at the UN General Assembly or Security Council about their nation.

“The United Nations is clearly not perfect,” he said, recalling decisions even dating back to its founding in 1945.

“We should not really have illusions about the United Nations. That’s true. On the other hand, do we have an alternative to the United Nations? No,” Kyslytsya said.

The envoy cited the many resolutions in the General Assembly calling for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. The last vote, near the February anniversary of the invasion, saw 141 nations vote in favor, seven against and 32 abstaining.

“It was a very serious blow against Russia, that was already spreading this narrative that the world (was) tired, that the world lost interest in that war,” he said.

Even with such achievements in his nation’s favor, Kyslytsya offered an evaluation of UN shortcomings and said he remains optimistic. 

“The easiest way, but the most irresponsible way, is to turn our back on the United Nations,” he insisted, describing the body as “a bouquet of different cultures, traditions (and) political systems” that must work together.

“The General Assembly and its membership is a photo of the world as it is… We might not like it, but that’s the world. And if France or Ukraine… want to improve it, you can’t use the Photoshop, you have to work directly with every single country and with groups of countries. It’s very difficult.”

Since the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine and its allies have organized the adoption by the General Assembly of several resolutions condemning Moscow.

And Ukrainians follow closely debates at the UN whenever envoys discuss the Russian invasion.

“I don’t think that there is any other country around the world currently, that would so carefully listen to what is said either in the General Assembly or in the Security Council meetings,” he said.

– ‘Not… paradise’ –

Russia has one of five permanent seats on the UN Security Council, holding veto power and leaving the 15-seat council paralyzed on Ukraine issues. Still, much of the work of the UN goes on apace, Kyslytsya said, noting the importance of other UN agencies such as the High Commissioner for Refugees.

However, the fact that Russia holds the rotating presidency of the Council for a month, until Sunday, has dealt “a serious blow” to the image of the UN, he lamented, citing the “total moral corruption” of a system that allows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to chair a meeting on the defense of the principles of the UN charter.

“I was disgusted, but I got used to (being) disgusted,” Kyslytsya said. “I mean, this city is full of hypocrisy. The United Nations is a very toxic place. It’s not a corner of the paradise.”

But the envoy said that “even if the Security Council is so deeply discredited… it doesn’t mean that the entire organization failed.”

He hailed “the success of the Secretary General,” Antonio Guterres, in reaching an agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea.

He called Guterres a UN chief with “very high moral standards and dedication.”

As for the creation of a special tribunal to judge those responsible for the Russian aggression, the question of whether this will be done through the UN or not remains open. Until a few months ago, Ukraine argued for a General Assembly resolution.

Today “discussions are continuing,” noted the ambassador.

“Whether we go to the General Assembly or whether we find other way, that is an important question. But that’s not the essence. The essence is how (Russia) is held to account for the crime of aggression.”

However the matter moves forward, “we should never allow it to fail.”

Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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