Russia assumes the presidency of the United Nations Security Council on Saturday for the first time since February 2022, when it invaded Ukraine and unleashed a war with far-reaching global consequences.
The presidency is largely a ceremonial role that rotates monthly among its 15 members based on alphabetical order.
The president plans and chairs meetings and manages administrative work, and the presiding country has no influence on decisions or votes by the Security Council. But Russia is assuming the role on Saturday amid outrage over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant this month for President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of war crimes. Russia continues to target civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, and on Thursday it jailed American journalist Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent based in Moscow for the Wall Street Journal, on murky charges of espionage.
Typically, each presidency uses the period to highlight global issues that it considers priorities. Often a high-level official, such as the foreign minister, chairs some of the marquee events. Russia plans to do that, convening at least two meetings this month – on the transfer of weapons to Ukraine, and multilateralism and the UN charter – in addition to the regular schedule on Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, plans to travel to New York to chair the multilateralism and Israeli-Palestinian meetings in late April, the ministry’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said at a news briefing in Moscow on Thursday.
Not all countries are openly critical of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. China, India and the United Arab Emirates have not openly criticised Russia for the war, for example, and have called for both sides to cease hostilities.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said in a tweet that Russia’s taking over the presidency was an April Fools’ Day “bad joke” that would not make the world a safer place.
Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, wrote on Twitter: “It’s not just a shame. It is another symbolic blow to the rules-based system of international relations.”
He also criticised Iran, who Kyiv and its allies accuse of supplying Russia with arms, including hundreds of assault drones which have menaced Ukrainian infrastructure facilities. Tehran denies supplying Russia with weapons.
“It is very telling that on the holiday of one terror state – Iran - another terror state – Russia – begins to preside over the UN Security Council,” Mr Yermak wrote, referring to Iran’s Islamic Republic Day holiday.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that “unfortunately” no legal pathway existed for removing Russia from its permanent seat at the council and called for it to conduct itself professionally.
“We will continue to call out Russia’s lies and bring credible voices, and facts, to the council,” said Nate Evans, a spokesperson for the US mission to the United Nations. “Holding the rotating presidency gives no credence to Russia’s conspiracy theories.” – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.