Russian Foreign Minister Faces Rebuke at U.N. Over War in Ukraine

Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia, center, chairing a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at U.N. headquarters in New York on Monday.Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

As Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, chaired a Security Council meeting on Monday at the United Nations, he faced rebuke from Western members and the U.N.’s top official over Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

With Russia’s monthlong term as rotating chair of the council nearing an end, the Monday meeting was a signature event for Moscow. Mr. Lavrov picked a topic that Russia has been accused of violating when it invaded Ukraine last year — the maintenance of international peace and security and defending the principles of the U.N. charter through multilateralism — and used the opportunity to shift blame to the West.

“Let’s call a spade a spade, nobody allowed the Western minority to speak for all of humankind, they need to be polite and respect all members of the international community,” Mr. Lavrov said in a long and wide-ranging speech that touched on Western involvement in conflicts including the wars in Iraq and Libya, and the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in World War II.

Before Mr. Lavrov spoke, the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, told the Council that the multilateral global system was “under greater strain than at any time since the creation of the United Nations” and warned that tensions between major powers increased the risk of conflict.

“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 dislocation triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr. Guterres said.

The United States and European members of the Council had declined to send their foreign ministers to the meeting, but their U.N. ambassadors attended. China, the United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Gabon were among the members represented at the ministerial level.

Western countries have accused Russia of abusing its permanent seat at the Security Council to spread disinformation and propaganda about the war in Ukraine. They could not stop Russia from taking its turn to preside over the Council, but have urged Russia to conduct its presidency professionally and continued to condemn its aggression in Ukraine.

Before the meeting, the European Union’s ambassador to the United Nations, Olof Skoog, delivered a statement on behalf of the bloc as all of its 27 ambassadors stood next to him.

“By organizing this debate, Russia is trying to portray itself as a defender of the U.N. Charter and multilateralism,” he said. “Nothing can be further from the truth.”

He added: “Everywhere you look Russia is in contempt.”

The U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, brought with her to the meeting Elizabeth Whelan, whose brother, Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, is serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia on what the United States says are fabricated charges of espionage. Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said Russia’s war struck at the heart of the U.N. Charter and called it “hypocritical” for convening the meeting.

“This illegal, unprovoked, and unnecessary war runs directly counter to our most sacred principle: that a war of aggression and territorial conquest is never, ever acceptable,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said.

Later Monday, Mr. Lavrov met one-on-one with Mr. Guterres and discussed the Black Sea grain deal, which has allowed Ukraine to export grain via its southern ports. Russia has said it will not extend the deal beyond May 18, but Mr. Guterres offered a proposal to extend and expand the agreement, according to a summary of the meeting released by the U.N.

The summary did not specify details of the proposal, contained in a letter to the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, but said similar letters had been sent to the agreement’s other signatories, Turkey and Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Mr. Lavrov will chair a Council meeting on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Russia’s mission to the U.N. said in a tweet that the United States had denied visas to journalists who wanted to travel with Mr. Lavrov to New York and accused it of violating its host agreement with the United Nations, a decision that appears to have angered Mr. Lavrov, who mentioned it in his speech at the Council.

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