Jacinda Ardern says UN failed in its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Prime minister also calls for reform of UN security council

Related: Satellite images of Ukraine’s Snake Island after Russian troops flee

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday tore into the United Nations for its “failure” to appropriately respond to Russia’s “morally bankrupt” war in Ukraine.

Speaking at the Lowy Institute think tank in Australia, Ms Ardern, who has been against the UN Security Council veto powers held by five permanent members, called for a reform of the body.

Russia has taken a “morally bankrupt position” in the security council in the “wake of a morally bankrupt and illegal war”, she said.

“We must reform the United Nations so that we don’t have to rely on individual countries imposing their own autonomous sanctions,” she said.

“When seeking solutions to issues, be it war or dispute, New Zealand will turn to these same institutions to act as a mediator and where necessary, as judge,” she said. “When they do fail, our first port of call must always be to find ways to make them stronger.”

The prime minister, throughout her speech, reiterated the Pacific nation’s faith in multilateral institutions to maintain global “rules-based order”, adding that when the system fails, the nation seeks partnerships based on “our independent foreign policy”.

“Under these circumstances, waiting for our multilateral institutions to act was not an option for New Zealand,” she added.

“Here, when the system fails, we seek partnerships and approaches based on the second principle of our independent foreign policy, our values.”

The prime minister called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the war crimes committed by Russian president Vladimir Putin's troops during the course of the four-month-long invasion of Ukraine.

“We must also resource the International Criminal Court to undertake full investigations and prosecution of the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine,” she said, adding that New Zealand could intervene as a third party at the court.

However, Ms Ardern argued against a “black and white” outlook of the war as a conflict between the “west versus Russia”.

“In taking every possible action to respond to Russia’s aggression and to hold it to account, we must remember that fundamentally this is Russia’s war,” she said.

“And while there are those who have shown overt and direct support ... who must also see consequences for their role, let us not otherwise characterise this as a war of the west vs Russia. Or democracy v autocracy. It is not.”

Amid China’s growing presence in the Pacific waters, the prime minister slammed the Asian giant for failing to condemn Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

“Let’s not assume that China as a member of the security council does not have a role to play in placing pressure in response to what is the loss of territorial integrity at the hand of Russia,” Ms Ardern added.

“Let’s not just isolate and assume that it’s only democracies that take this view.”

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