It was to be Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s first in-person appearance at a UN Security Council meeting on Moscow’s invasion of his country, and Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia objected to him taking the floor before the 15 council members.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, serving as president of the tense session, responded with a gibe at Moscow, which has long said the invasion does not amount to a war but was a “special military operation”.
“I want to assure our Russian colleagues and everyone here that this is not a special operation by the Albanian presidency,” Rama, known for a piercing sense of humour, said to muted laughter across the room.
“There is a solution for this,” Rama continued. “If you agree, you stop the war and President Zelensky will not take the floor,” said Rama, whose country serves as president of the council for September.
Nebenzia went on to say the session was a show and criticised Rama for what he said was a political stance rather than an act of a neutral guardian of procedure.
In seeking to justify its invasion, Moscow has said Ukraine’s ambitions to integrate with the West — including Nato — pose a threat to Russia’s national security.
When given the floor after the back-and-forth, Zelensky suggested Russia be stripped of its veto right as one of five permanent members of the post-World War II UN Security Council as punishment for attacking Ukraine. Zelensky said the only way to a lasting peace was a full withdrawal of Russian troops and restoration of Kyiv’s control over its territory within the 1991 borders following the fall of the Soviet Union.
$325m military aid
US President Joe Biden plans to announce a $325 million military aid package for Ukraine on Thursday to coincide with a visit to Washington by Zelensky, a US official said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
The weapons aid package was expected to include the second tranche of cluster munitions fired by a 155mm Howitzer cannon, the US official said. Other new weapons for Ukraine were expected to be announced around the time of Biden’s meeting with Zelensky, but not ATACMS missiles which have been under discussion, the US official said.
Ukraine got an initial tranche of M864 155mm artillery rounds in July 2023. The unguided artillery shells are fired from Nato standard 155 cannons.