Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has described Russia taking control of the UN Security Council on 1 April as “the world’s worst April fool’s joke”.
“The country which systematically violates all fundamental rules of international security is presiding over a body whose only mission is to safeguard and protect international security,” Mr Kuleba said.
The presidency of the UN Security Council is based on a rotation pattern, with each of the 15 members taking its place alphabetically and holding the presidency for a month.
As one of the five permanent members of the body, Russia usually assumes the presidency around every 15 months – and last did so in February 2022, just before President Vladimir Putin announced the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The US, Russia, China, France, and the UK hold permanent seats on the peacemaking body, created in the aftermath of World War II with the goal of maintaining peace. They are joined by 10 non-permanent members, with other UN member states serving for two years at a time.
The Security Council presidency is supposed to be a neutral position, acting to solve disputes and serving as an intermediary between conflicting groups and nations – but the West fears Russia may exploit the role to air propaganda.
The US has warned Russia to “conduct itself professionally” when it takes the role.
Vladimir Putin last month became the first head of a permanent Security Council member state to be wanted on an arrest warrant for war crimes. He faced International Criminal Court charges over an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
Despite fears over how Russia will use its powers in the council, Richard Gown, UN director at the International Crisis Group, said that the presidency was unlikely to work to the Kremlin’s advantage. “I think that people are seeing it the wrong way round. I think that people should understand that this month is more of a headache than an advantage for the Russians,” Mr Gowan told Voice of America.
“If they try and use the presidency to try to stir up trouble for the Ukrainians, or push their narratives about the war, they will just get an enormous amount of blowback.”
Russia’s supporters defended the nation’s position as president, pointing out that the US invaded Iraq in 2003 without the council’s approval.
Mr Gowan added that the council wanted to “avoid power games” and look to where the UN might be useful and “shift away from the crisis in Ukraine.”
While Ukraine has questioned the legitimacy of Russia’s place in the Security Council, it is not simple to remove a founding member of the organization. There is no pathway for doing so – a country can only be removed from the United Nations General Assembly via a vote based on the recommendation of the Security Council, but Russia has a veto on the body – meaning the nation would essentially have to approve its own elimination from the group.