(CNSNews.com) – U.N. Security Council foreign ministers on Thursday roundly condemned the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, but their Russian colleague, in an apparent show of contempt, entered the chamber just in time to deliver a statement, before walking out again.
In that lengthy statement, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov covered familiar ground, accusing Kyiv of neo-Nazi conduct, claiming that evidence of atrocities uncovered after Russian troop withdrawals from some areas was staged, and slamming the West for “pumping” weapons into Ukraine in a bid to “wear down and weaken Russia.”
“We have no doubt that Ukraine has become a completely totalitarian, Nazi-like state, where the norms of international humanitarian law are trampled on,” he said through an interpreter, accusing Ukrainian troops or using civilians as human shields.
“What’s particularly cynical is the position of states that are pumping Ukraine full of weapons, training their soldiers. The goal is obvious – they’re clearly stating it – to drag out the fighting as long as possible, in spite of the victims and destruction, in order to wear down and weaken Russia.”
About 30 seconds after finishing his statement Lavrov left the chamber, as British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly began to speak.
“I sat here in February listening to the Russian representative assuring this council that Russia had no intention of invading its neighbor,” Cleverly said during his statement. “We now know that that was a lie.”
“And today, I have listened to further installments of Russia’s catalogues of distortions, dishonesty, and disinformation.”
“He has left the chamber,” Cleverly continued, gesturing towards the Russian seat. “I’m not surprised, I don’t think Mr. Lavrov wants to hear the collective condemnation of this council.”
“But we saw through him then, and we saw through him again today.”
Cleverly went on to talk about the planned referendums this weekend in Russian-controlled parts of southern and eastern Ukraine.
“We know what Vladimir Putin is doing: He is planning to fabricate the outcome of those referenda. He is planning to use that to annex sovereign Ukrainian territory, and he is planning to use it as a further pretext to escalate his aggression.”
“We call on all countries to reject this charade and to refuse to recognize any results,” Cleverly said.
In his statement earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke about the referendum plans, and what the U.S. views as a veiled threat by Putin to use unconventional weapons.
“This week, President Putin said that Russia would not hesitate to use, and I quote, ‘all weapons systems available,’ end quote, in response to a threat to its territorial integrity – a threat that is all the more menacing given Russia’s intention to annex large swaths of Ukraine in the days ahead.”
“When that’s complete, we can expect President Putin will claim any Ukrainian effort to liberate this land as an attack on so-called ‘Russian territory.’”
Blinken said that despite the fact even some countries that have close ties to Moscow have raised “questions and concerns” – an apparent reference to recent comments by the leaders of China and India – Putin has “doubled down.”
Blinken pointed to the mobilization of Russian reserves, the referendum plans, and “the threat of nuclear weapons.”
“That President Putin picked this week, as most of the world gathers at the United Nations, to add fuel to the fire that he started, shows his utter contempt for the U.N. Charter, for the General Assembly, and for this council.”
“The very international order that we have gathered here to uphold is being shredded before our eyes. We cannot – we will not – allow President Putin to get away with it.”
Tussling over the Charter
The U.S. and its allies contend that the invasion of Ukraine is a clear violation of the U.N. Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” while providing an exception for self-defense in the event of an armed attack.
For its part Russia, backed by some of its allies, say that the Western insistence on upholding the “rules-based international order” is a cover for promoting its own interests, in violation of the U.N. Charter – which they claim to uphold and support.
(“By talking about the ‘rules-based order,’ the U.S. politicians are simply defending the U.S.’s own hegemonic interests,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a briefing in Beijing on Thursday.)
In New York on Thursday, Lavrov took part in a meeting with likeminded U.N. member-states of a small grouping calling itself the “Group of Friends in Defense of the U.N. Charter,” established in July last year with 19 members.
In his remarks at the meeting, Lavrov pledged support for “universally-recognized international legal norms laid down in the U.N. Charter, including the principles of the sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs,” according to a Russian foreign ministry statement.
He added that the “rules-based international order” concept was designed to “undermine the U.N.-centric system of international relations.”
“Sergei Lavrov placed particular emphasis on the ongoing attempts by Western countries to turn the world organization into a platform for demonizing Russia and other states pursuing an independent line,” the ministry said.
More than half of the “group of friends” are autocratic regimes targeted by U.S. sanctions: Belarus, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
The others are Algeria, Angola, Bolivia, Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea, Laos, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Zimbabwe, and the (non-U.N. member-state) “State of Palestine.”