The United Nations Security Council meeting witnessed a tense exchange when Russia’s envoy, representing President Vladimir Putin, attempted to disrupt Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech on Wednesday. The incident unfolded during a session of global significance where geopolitical tensions were on full display.
Russian Envoy Objects to Zelensky’s Speech
Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, raised objections to the council president’s decision to allow President Zelensky to speak before the 15 council members. Nebenzia questioned the basis for this decision, emphasising that many council members were represented by heads of state and government. He accused Albania of displaying “open disregard for the procedures and practises of the UN Security Council.”
Albanian Prime Minister Responds Defiantly
In a sharp response, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama challenged the Russian envoy’s objections, remarking, “I must say that coming from you, all this lecture about violating the rules in this building is quite an impressive shot.” Rama emphasised that if Russia stopped the war, President Zelensky would not need to address the council.
Rama also cited council rules that allow a non-member to speak first and humorously referred to Russia’s insistence on calling its offensive against Ukraine a “special military operation,” eliciting laughter from those present.
Tensions Escalate at the Council
Tensions further escalated when Nebenzia referred to Rama as Albania’s prime minister and a NATO member instead of addressing him as the council president. Nevertheless, Rama maintained composure, stating, “I take note, and we’ll continue with our session.”
Shortly thereafter, President Zelensky thanked Edi Rama for his handling of the situation, emphasising the need to address Russia’s actions. He shared a video clip of the heated exchange on social media, lauding Rama’s principled approach.
Zelensky and Lavrov Avoid Confrontation
Speculation had been rife about a potential clash between President Zelensky and Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, who were expected to be in close proximity for the first time since the invasion of Ukraine in February last year. In the end, Zelensky left the council chambers before Lavrov’s arrival.
During his speech, Zelensky denounced Russia as “a terrorist state” while Ambassador Nebenzia sat nearby. As the Ukrainian president spoke, Nebenzia briefly glanced at his phone before putting it away.
Lavrov, in his address, blamed the West for destabilising global security and creating new tensions. He accused the US and its allies of interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs, heightening the risk of global conflict. Lavrov claimed that Russia had fully respected the provisions of the UN Charter.
The incident at the United Nations Security Council underscores the ongoing geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine. It also highlights the challenges in diplomatic discourse as leaders grapple with the consequences of the conflict. The world watches closely as these critical issues unfold on the global stage.