Security Council Decides Not to Discuss Ukraine, Rejecting Russian Federation’s Request by 6 Votes Against to 5 in Favour, with 4 Abstentions

SC/13815
20 May 2019
8529th Meeting (PM)

Security Council Decides Not to Discuss Ukraine, Rejecting Russian Federation’s Request by 6 Votes Against to 5 in Favour, with 4 Abstentions

The Security Council decided today against holding a meeting requested by the Russian Federation to discuss the situation in Ukraine, with six members voting against and five in favour, with four abstentions.

In a procedural action, Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, United Kingdom and the United States voted against adopting the agenda for the meeting.  China, Equatorial Guinea, Dominican Republic, Russian Federation and South Africa voted in favour, with Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Kuwait and Peru abstaining.

The Russian Federation’s representative, recalling that Ukraine’s parliament passed a language bill on 25 April, said that action was clearly in violation of the Minsk agreements.  Rejecting the notion that the language issue is less significant than daily shelling in Ukraine’s Donbas region, he said the decision’s impact goes far beyond the law, reminding Council members that the language issue was among the causes that triggered the ongoing conflict in 2014.  He emphasized that each Council member is entitled to put an issue on the agenda when it considers that such an issue threatens international peace and security.

Expressing deep regret that several delegations decided to apply double standards in discussing the Ukraine issue, he described the language law as draconian.  It places a ticking bomb in Ukrainian society, he cautioned, adding:  “This is very dangerous.”  Stressing that all national minorities have a right to preserve their linguistic identities, he said the Ukrainian law does not meet European standards.  By refusing to discuss the issue, he added, those who voted against it have demonstrated their hypocrisy, confirming that they are not really interested in Ukrainians at all but rather in pinning two brethren against one another in the name of advancing geopolitical interests.

France’s representative said the Russian Federation’s request for the meeting on the very day when Ukraine is inaugurating its new President clearly is not intended to help resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis.  Its call to hold the discussion is not intended for constructive dialogue but rather to paint the new President in a negative light, he added.  The issue of the language law — granting special status to the Ukrainian language — should be dealt with in accordance with existing agreements between the two countries.

In similar vein, the representative of the United States said there is no need for the proposed briefing, describing it as a clear attempt to distract from the peaceful transfer of power occurring in Ukraine today.

Belgium’s representative said his delegation lacks enough information on the law in question.  Germany’s representative said his delegation is not against holding the meeting, but merely wishes to postpone because today marks the inauguration of President Zelensky and holding the meeting is tantamount to welcoming him with an act of intimidation.

China’s representative, having voted in favour, said the Russian Federation requested the meeting in accordance with the rules of procedure.  China has always maintained an objective and impartial stance on issues of territorial integrity and sovereignty of States, he added.

South Africa’s representative said her delegation supported holding the meeting because Ukraine is already on the Council’s agenda.

Also speaking were representatives of Poland, United Kingdom and Indonesia.

The meeting began at 3:12 p.m. and ended at 3:51 p.m.

Statements

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) objected to adoption of the agenda for the meeting, saying that the Russian Federation’s request for the meeting on the very day Ukraine is inaugurating a new President clearly is not intended to help resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis.  Russia’s call to hold the discussion is not intended for constructive dialogue but rather to paint the new President in a negative light, he said, emphasizing that the situation in Donbas should be the Security Council’s focus.  The issue of the language law — granting special status to the Ukrainian language — should be dealt with in accordance with existing agreements between the two countries, he said, expressing regret that no objection objections to holding the meeting were heard.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) also objected to the agenda’s adoption.

JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said there is no need for the briefing, describing it as a clear attempt to distract from the peaceful transfer of power occurring in Ukraine today.  He urged other Council members vote against the agenda’s adoption.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) reminded the representative of France that there is no conflict between his country and Ukraine, but rather an internal conflict within Ukraine.  Noting that Ukraine’s parliament approved the language bill on 25 April, he said then-President Petro Poroshenko signed it into law on 15 May.  Pointing out that the law will take effect in the middle of July, he said the timing does not negate the essence of the matter; it clearly violates the letter of the Minsk agreements.  Rejecting the view that the language issue is less significant than daily shelling in Donbas, he said the impact of the decision goes far beyond the law, reminding Council members that the language issue was among the causes that triggered the ongoing conflict in 2014.  Each Council member is entitled to put an issue on the Council’s agenda when it considers that such an issue threatens international peace and security, he emphasized.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said her delegation was surprised by the Russian Federation’s request, emphasizing that Russian aggression is a threat to international security and peace, but the Ukraine law is not.

The Council then rejected the request for a meeting by 6 votes against to 5 in favour, with 4 abstentions (Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Kuwait, Peru).

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) expressed deep regret that a number of delegations decided to apply double standards in discussing Ukraine.  “We cannot accept the arguments that we heard that delegations need more time to examine the documents,” he said.  It is very strange to hear that the Ukrainian documents on the law have not been translated into English, he said, describing that as a blatant double standard.  The Russian Federation believed it necessary to call this meeting as the previous Ukrainian President is leaving office in shame, having championed the language text into law and rejected most of the amendments that sought to make the law more civilized, he said, noting that the law has been met with serious concerns by Ukraine’s Russian-speaking minorities.  “Almost all citizens of Ukraine speak Russian,” he pointed out, adding that it remains a matter of particular concern for citizens in the south.  He recalled that President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke out against destroying the close links between Russia and Ukraine during his inauguration today, noting the historic link between the two countries.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), speaking on a point of order, said the Russian Federation is giving a subtractive intervention on a meeting that is not happening.  “In so doing, he is showing disrespect to the decision made here today,” he added, calling upon the Russian Federation’s representative to follow the rules and not deliver a statement on a meeting that is not happening.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) asked the United Kingdom’s representative the criteria by which he judged that his statement is not an explanation of vote.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), Council President for May, said the Russian Federation’s representative can continue his statement.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) continued his statement, saying Ukraine’s new language law is draconian and introduces an inquisition, placing a ticking bomb in Ukrainian society.  “This is very dangerous,” he warned, emphasizing that it deserves the attention of the Council as guarantor of the Minsk agreement.  He recalled that just a few months ago, some criticized the Russian President’s decision to grant citizenship to some Ukrainians, which was not a violation of the Minsk agreement.  Stressing that all national minorities have a right to preserve their linguistic identities, he said Ukrainian law does not meet European standards, asking the representatives of Belgium and Germany how they would feel if their languages were forbidden to those who speak them.  “We must give a proper assessment to this law to prevent further deterioration of the political situation in Ukraine,” he said, stressing that by refusing to discuss the topic, those who voted against it demonstrated their hypocrisy, confirming that they are not really interested in Ukrainians at all but rather in pinning two brethren against one another in the name of advancing geopolitical interests.

MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) said his delegation voted against holding the requested meeting for lack of sufficient information on the law in question, explaining that his delegation wishes to be prepared.  Secondly, the timing is inappropriate because President Volodymyr Zelensky assumed office today, he noted, adding that holding the requested meeting does not contribute to an enabling environment in which to resolve the conflict.

MA ZHAOXU (China) said the Russian Federation proposed the meeting in accordance with the rules of procedure, and therefore his delegation supported convening the meeting by voting in favour.  Emphasizing that China always maintains an objective and impartial stance on the issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty of States, he said all parties should implement resolution 2202 (2015).  The Council should play a constructive role in creating the enabling conditions for the harmonious coexistence of various ethnic groups in Ukraine, he added.

THANDEKILE TSHABALALA (South Africa) expressed support for holding the meeting because Ukraine is already on the Council’s agenda.  Urging all concerned to engage in diplomatic efforts and dialogue based on the spirit of compromise, she reiterated their commitments and obligations under the Minsk agreements.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said his delegation did not apply double standards and has been consistent.  It is not against holding the meeting, but merely wished to have it postponed because today marks the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky, he said, adding that holding the meeting would have been tantamount to welcoming the new President with an act of intimidation.  The Russian Federation adopted its new passport law when President Zelensky was elected, on the International Day of Multilateralism, he recalled, urging Russian forces to abide by the ceasefire agreement, withdraw heavy weapons and allow observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to do their job.

Ms. WRONECKA (Poland) said the statement by the Russian Federation was indeed a substantive one and not an explanation of vote.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said today has seen an attempt to introduce censorship in the Security Council.  “I have no illusions that I will manage to change the views of my German colleague about who is complying with the Minsk agreement and who isn’t,” he said.  “The representative of Germany will continue to see it through the illusion of the hourglass that he so often uses,” he added.  “We reserve the right to return to this matter when the time comes to discuss it,” he said, expressing hope that the time will come when the bill becomes law.

MR. DJANI (Indonesia), speaking his national capacity, said he believes strongly that discussion in the Council is most effective when all members have deliberated the topic and are united about discussing it.  For this reason, Indonesia abstained from the vote, he added.

For information media. Not an official record.