Story by French Reporter
The Russian-backed delegation with the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council came under fire from both the media and the US ambassador Nikki Haley, when they skipped a security council meeting that ended with a brief impasse.
Haley criticised the Kremlin for interfering in regional elections that led to the election of a new president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.
“This disruption today was unacceptable to the United States and the council,” Haley said at the meeting on the crisis in East Africa that began at 2300 hours, when the two-hour meeting was due to last.
“This situation has deteriorated from verbal exchanges between governments into disputes which led to this kind of unproductive and fragmented paralysis in the council,” she said.
The meeting was discussed over the loud-speakers after a delegate from the Ukrainian ambassador rejected the claim that an election in Belarus was “illegitimate”.
The incumbent Lukashenko was re-elected to a fourth term last week by more than 90% of voters, election officials said.
“The message of this vote is one of consolidation of power in the hands of the incumbent president and this may lead to the weakening of democratic institutions,” Ukraine’s delegate said.
According to the Associated Press, West and East European ambassadors started the meeting with an open discussion, but the session only got to a motion on a draft resolution to urge Belarus to step down peacefully and respect its citizens’ rights, after the Russian-backed delegation walked out.
‘Meet in closed session’
After the walkout, council members started a closed meeting in a session the council convened for the first time since 2007, when it was created.
The Ukrainian representative said it was unusual to adjourn the open session of the council for a closed session about politics.
“This council is supposed to be a body for the UN Security Council… and the members of the Security Council representing the entire world should be able to come here and talk about matters of peace and security, and not only about regional conflicts,” he said.
Ambassador Gernot Erler of Germany, which currently chairs the council said he “regretted” the walkout and confirmed the “future discussions” of the council.
But while Russian representatives walk out the council’s session, they also say they support Russia’s position on the Belarus vote.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the US made sure the East African Security Council meeting was called in accordance with UN resolutions.
“One thing is for sure: all members of the UN Security Council should adhere to UN Security Council Resolutions,” he said.
“… Now is not the time to cast judgment on individuals or parties in that electoral process.”
After the Ukrainian’s presentation to the security council, the Russian-backed delegation walked out after the first of three rounds of talks on the vote, in the course of which Ukraine’s representative, Vasiliy Vorontsov, told the Security Council how she believes Russia’s military occupied Crimea, a month before the 2014 referendum that resulted in Russia’s annexation of the region.
“We cannot accept what you are calling legitimacy in relation to the election of a president of the Republic of Belarus. What the Ukrainian president calls a ‘mandate’, is not one vote,” Mr Vorontsov said.
“It is fact that the armed forces of Ukraine illegally occupied a part of the Republic of Crimea under the pretext of breaking up separatist activity. Now Russia, as well as Ukraine, are subject to that illegal occupation under international law,” Mr Vorontsov said.
“We feel it is appropriate to discuss the unlawful occupation of Crimea by Russia and Ukraine. Right now we are not interested in politicising the issue of the election of a president of Belarus,” Mr Vorontsov said, demanding that the Council act on behalf of the world body to support Ukraine’s position on Crimea.
After the walkout, the council began a second round of talks on the disputed election of Belarus, this time after both European countries, Russia and Ukraine make their final arguments.
This is the first time a Central Asian country has been elected to the Security Council.
“Should there be a new resolution reflecting the outcome of the election of President Lukashenko, it is a subject for further discussion that will take place behind closed doors,” Mr Vorontsov said.