Russian official tries to disrupt Zelensky’s speech at UN and gets told to ‘stop the war’

‘You stop the war and president Zelensky will not take the floor’

Arpan Rai
Thursday 21 September 2023 15:52 BST
Russia's UN ambassador plays on phone as Zelensky and Biden address Assembly

The Russian envoy attending the United Nations Security Council meeting on president Vladimir Putin’s behalf was told to “stop the war” after he objected to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech on Wednesday.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia protested the council president’s decision to allow Mr Zelensky to speak before the 15 council members.

“We would like to ask you on what basis you are proposing to allow president Zelensky to speak before the members of the council, many of whom are represented by the heads of states and governments,” the Russian envoy said, accusing the Albanian state of demonstrating “open disregard for the procedures and practices of the UN security council”.

Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nation

Albanian prime minister Edi Rama shot back at the Russian leader: “I must say that coming from you all this lecture of violating the rules in this building is quite an impressive shot.”

“You stop the war and president Zelensky will not take the floor,” he said, after noting the objection flagged by the Russian leader over the Ukrainian leader speaking before the council members had addressed the meeting.

Mr Rama also cited the council rule allowing a non-member to speak first and added that “this is not a special operation by the Albanian presidency”, eliciting laughter with a quip about Russia’s insistence on referring to its offensive against Ukraine as a “special military operation”.

Another heated exchange erupted at the table after Mr Nebenzia referred to Mr Rama as Albania’s prime minister and a Nato member instead of as the council president but Mr Rama declared: “I take note, and we’ll continue with our session.”

Shortly after, Mr Zelensky took to X and thanked the Albanian leader for “correctly handling Russia” as he shared a video clip of the heated exchange.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives to address the 78th United Nations General Assembl

“Dear @EdiRamaal, today at the UNSC you showed the world how to correctly handle Russia, its lies, and its hypocrisy. I thank you for steering the presidency in such a principled manner,” he said on Twitter.

The second day of the UN meeting in New York was flooded with speculations on the Ukrainian president and Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov clashing for the first time in person since the invasion in Ukraine started in February last year. The two were either expected to clash, speak or totally avoid each other.

In the end, Mr Zelensky and Sergei Lavrov avoided staring each other down across the UN Security Council’s famous horseshoe-shaped table as the former left before Mr Lavrov arrived.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a high level Security Council meeting

Mr Zelensky denounced Russia as “a terrorist state” while Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia sat facing him near the other end of the table’s arc. As the Ukrainian president launched into his remarks, the Russian briefly looked at his phone, then tucked the device away.

Mr Zelensky left before Mr Lavrov’s arrival, which happened as US secretary of state Antony Blinken was accusing Russia of having “shredded” key provisions of the UN Charter.

Mr Lavrov blamed the West for “a shaking of global stability as well as the exacerbation and the fomenting of new hotbeds of tension”. He said “the US and its satellites have egregiously and openly interfered in the domestic affairs of Ukraine,” heightening the risks of global conflict.

He insisted that Russia has “fully” respected the provisions of the UN charter “in an interconnected way”.

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