KYIV: Ukraine on Saturday branded Russia’s presidency of the UN Security Council for April "a slap in the face", joining a chorus of outrage from Western countries.
Moscow assumes the presidency as part of its monthly rotation between the Security Council’s 15 member states, with ties with the West at their lowest point since the Cold War over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia’s tenure of the body’s rotating presidency was "a slap in the face to the international community".
"I urge the current UNSC members to thwart any Russian attempts to abuse its presidency," he said on Twitter, calling Russia "an outlaw on the UNSC".
Moscow last chaired the council in February 2022 — the same month it invaded Ukraine.
Russia would hold little influence on decisions but would be in charge of the agenda.
Moscow has said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is planning to chair a UN Security Council meeting later this month on "effective multilateralism".
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has also said that Lavrov will lead a debate on the Middle East on April 25.
Ukraine has called for Russia to be removed from the Security Council.
The United States has also criticised Russia’s membership of the Security Council and its status as a permanent member.
"A country that flagrantly violates the UN Charter and invades its neighbour has no place on the UN Security Council," White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier.
"Unfortunately Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and no feasible international legal pathway exists to change that reality," she added, calling the presidency "a largely ceremonial position."
The Baltic states also expressed their concern on Saturday.
Estonia’s permanent mission to the UN said in a statement on Twitter that it was "shameful & humiliating" for the UN Security Council that Russia should be its president.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis mockingly congratulated Russia on assuming the presidency.
"Looking forward to some energetic discussions on Ukraine’s proposal for the destination of your warships," he wrote.
The strategic communications division of the Lithuanian foreign ministry tweeted that "this presidency is a #BadRussianJoke", saying it was fitting that Moscow assumes the role on "April Fool’s Day".
In an interview with AFP on Thursday, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she expected Russia to behave "professionally" in the presidency but expressed doubts.
"We also expect that they will also seek opportunities to advance their disinformation campaign against Ukraine, the United States and all of our allies," she said.
"At every opportunity, we will raise our concerns about Russia’s actions," she added, reiterating Washington’s condemnation of Moscow’s "war crimes and human rights violations" in Ukraine.
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