Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Remarks to the Press by Charge d'Affaires of the Russian Federation Dmitry Polyanskiy after UNSC consultations on the program of work for August, 2023

Dmitry Polyanskiy: Colleagues, I don't want to eat the bread of the US Presidency. And of course, [US Ambassador] Linda [Thomas-Greenfield] will speak at her press conference, and she will possibly also touch upon this development. But I decided to go to you and explain the reasoning why Russia didn't support the US Presidency program of work (PoW) for this month. As you know, Presidency’s program is a very informal indicative document, which has no formal nature. It's just an outline for the work of the Security Council. It is prepared for the sake of transparency and for the benefit of Council members. And there is a tradition that the Council, in informal consultations (the ones that we had today) gives a consent to the number of meetings that the Presidency includes in the program. It doesn't mean that the Presidency’s program of work is limited only to these meetings.

As you know, there are plenty of situations when countries ask for additional meetings for different reasons, when there are developments on the ground that require our attention. But normally there is a long-standing tradition and an understanding that the items included into this informal document are, first of all, consensual for all Council members. It means that the President takes an effort to work out a program that would be supported by everybody. If necessary, it may go to the lowest common denominator. And there were cases like this in my memory.

Secondly, there is a tradition that the meetings that are included in the program are motivated and the necessity to include them is supported by the [Security Council] mandating and reporting cycle. It means that if there is a resolution of the Council, if there is a necessity to renew or modify a mandate of a UN presence or a panel of experts; or if there is a provision of a resolution that Secretary-General is reporting to the Council, then we have this meeting regularly. All other meetings are to be requested by Council members. And of course, the agenda for each meeting and each day is adopted only at the moment when the President of the Council hits the gavel. So we shouldn't overestimate the significance of this document, let me be absolutely clear about this.  

There were two stumbling blocks for us in the US program. The first, the minor one, but still quite important, is a number of meetings on Syria. Not only us, but some of our partners in the Security Council, have been advocating for a long time that there is no need to discuss the three aspects of the Syrian dossier every month. The issue of chemical weapons in Syria does not deserve to be tackled every month, as we clearly see from the meetings, which are very shallow. On several occasions, we even made a decision not to speak. We don't think that we need to do it every month. It's quite enough to do it once every three months. This position was absolutely clear for us and for everybody. We also don't think that we need to discuss humanitarian Syria and political Syria separately. One meeting would be quite okay from the point of view of better management of the Council’s time and resources.

But the most important stumbling block was the desire (I would say even the obsession) of the incoming American Presidency to put, formally, a meeting on Ukraine in the PoW. Ukraine is not tackled by any UNSC resolution. There is no mandating cycle or request of the Secretary-General to brief the Council.

That's why we don't see a formal reason for this topic to be included as such in the program of work. Last month, for example, the British Presidency included this in their program. We didn't oppose, because it was scheduled for 17 July, which is the anniversary of downing of MH-17 and there is a resolution of the Council which deals with this issue. That's why we decided that it was devoted to this topic and didn't object.

This time our American colleagues and friends just said, “We need to discuss Ukraine. You don't need to block the possibility of the Council to discuss Ukraine”. But we are in no way blocking the possibility of the Council to discuss Ukraine. As our Brazilian colleagues counted at the previous meeting on Ukraine, the Council has met 66 times since February last year on Ukrainian issues. I think it's even more because there were a lot of issues that were not directly linked to Ukraine but clearly dominated by the Ukrainian agenda. Only last month, the Council met on Ukraine five times, two of which on our request. It means that we not only do not shy away from discussing Ukraine, but we haven't blocked a single meeting.

We would encourage discussing Ukrainian issues, because there are a lot of issues that we think the Council should look into more thoroughly. But to agree to a formal inclusion of the Ukrainian item in the PoW would be to overstep our red line and I made it absolutely clear to our US colleagues. But it was a matter of principle for the US Presidency, that's why we didn't manage to agree on the program of work. I personally view it as a proof that, unfortunately, our US colleagues are starting the Presidency from the wrong foot, if I may use this expression.

The task of the President is to get a common position and to agree on one so the President of the Security Council is the first among the equals. It's not his/her task to impose his/her position or that of his/her allies on the rest of the membership. Maybe it is quite okay in the “rules-based international order”, but it's not okay given the traditions and the practice that we have in the Council, which we are guarding. Don't be misled, Russia is not blocking discussion of Ukrainian issues. In the Security Council, Russia is very much in favor of discussing these issues.

Q: I'm going to have to go down in the weeds myself now and look at UN Security Council procedure. But I thought Ukraine had been on the agenda for at least nearly the last ten years. And does this mean that you're now planning to call procedural votes on all these meetings that you disagree with? And are you going to keep up your sort of tit-for-tat position where if one country calls a meeting on Ukraine, you guys have said you'll call one as well? So can we expect more meetings on Ukraine this month?

A: I would say that tit-for-tat is a kind of simplification. We think that there are certain issues about the Ukrainian crisis, which are more, I would say, alluring for our Western partners to raise in the Council. They think they compromise Russia and put us in an awkward position. But there are other aspects of the Ukrainian crisis which are not raised by Western countries because they are clearly implicated in it. They are not part of the solution, but part of the problem, namely the supplies of arms to Ukraine. For example, last meeting was devoted to the terrorist methods used by the Kiev regime.

We will promote these issues not because of a tit-for-tat. Last month we asked for two meetings, but there were three (asked for by our Western colleagues). But we will insist that the Council should look into all aspects of the Ukrainian crisis in its entirety and not only do the cherry-picking on certain issues.

As for agenda items, do you know how many items there are on the agenda of Security Council? If I'm not mistaken, in his last letter that Secretary-General sent to us enumerating all the issues that were raised last year in the Security Council, there were about 60 items.

If I'm not mistaken, according to the rules of procedure, any item that was ever raised in the Security Council remains on its agenda. If we take this approach, then there will be hundreds, if not thousands items on the agenda. Ukraine is only one item and we are not against Western countries calling for meetings using these agenda items. We never blocked it and we will not block it.

We had problems, as you might remember, with participation of President Zelensky via video conference, which is in clear breach of Security Council rules of procedure. That was the only reason why we were a bit agitated in the meetings on Ukraine. Otherwise we are quite okay and we will continue to accept all the meetings. And again, US Presidency had the opportunity to call for this meeting even today, we wouldn't oppose it.

Q: So you won't call procedural votes on these meetings?

And then just while we have you, there were protests in Niger on the weekend, and there were Russian flags being waved around. Did Russia have anything to do with what happened in Niger?

A: With the flags?

Q: With the coup.

A: Not to my knowledge. There are a lot of Russian flags in the world, and in Africa specifically. It might be a surprise for you, but our approaches are very much popular in the world, which is not limited to Western countries, and many people view it in a different way.

Again, in what I said, there is nothing indicating that we will block meetings or ask for procedural votes. We will ask for procedural votes if our briefers are blocked. But this is a different thing, which is not about agenda items or about raising Ukrainian issues as such.

Q: Could you tell us whether there are any talks ongoing between the Secretary-General or his designees and either President Putin himself or any other senior Russian officials concerning the Black Sea grain deal and the MoU and perhaps restoring them?

A: I'm not aware of such talks right now. You may ask this question to Secretary-General and his team. As far as I know, there was a contact recently between our Deputy Foreign Minister S.Vershinin and Secretary-General in Rome. We made our position on grain initiative absolutely clear, as well as the reasons why we had to withdraw and to stop this initiative. I don't think we have anything to add at this point, but maybe Secretary-General knows something more than myself. So please address his press secretary.

Q: Can you tell us what the reaction was from the Security Council members to the issues that you have just raised before us, including on Syria and Ukraine? And is Russia planning to call a Security Council meeting in response to the meeting that is on the agenda already?

A: Just to correct you, there are no meetings on the agenda at this point. The meeting will be on the agenda only at the exact day when the President hits the gavel. That's the only way. Everything else used to be an indicative program of work, which doesn't have any significance in formal terms. It's not a formal document of the Security Council. It’s useful for transparency, for you and for ourselves.

There is no meeting on Ukraine on the agenda. We will learn about it only on the day when they choose to hold such a meeting. As for the reaction of members of the Security Council, yes, everybody was disappointed. We ourselves are disappointed because we never expected that our US colleagues would put their national priorities and their position on top of the interests of the Security Council.

I'm here for almost six years already, and it has some bearing on institutional memory. So I vividly remember the situation when, if I'm not mistaken, in September 2018, Nikki Haley, one of the predecessors of Linda Thomas-Greenfield, all of a sudden decided that the US would hold all the meetings in the open. I don't know what her reasoning was. She didn't explain it. Now the US has the opposite position, but it happens. At that moment, the agenda was not adopted either. And that was the first example when the selfish national interests were attempted to be brought on top of Security Council agenda. I don't think that we will support such attempts in the future by any members of the Security Council.

Q: Aren't you worried that this may backfire? Maybe some other members in the Council would disagree to add certain item or meeting to the program of work, and this may be a real obstacle in the Security Council. And my second question. Do you see that you have less common ground with your counterparts in the Council to be productive in the Security Council?

A: Quite the opposite. We see that we have more and more understanding among Security Council members and wider UN membership of our position, because you clearly see where the crisis in Ukraine is evolving and the true colors of Zelensky regime become more and more clear. As for the possible “mirror moves”, I think it's what Michelle [Nichols, REUTERS] meant under tit-for-tat. Of course, there is no reasoning for this except a childish desire to revenge. But it's not up to me to comment on if they adopt these tactics. We are here, we're not going anywhere.

Q: Will there be a meeting this month on Haiti, and would Russia support an international force headed by Kenya?

A: Let's wait for Linda's [Thomas-Greenfield] press conference. I already took some of the things that she wanted to say, so I don't want to dwell on this item. It's up to the Presidency to tell you.

Q: You could say if Russia would support such an international force led by Kenya.

A: We need to look into the details. How can I tell you this right now at this moment? We heard about this. We know that there is a discussion. We know that the situation in Haiti is very dire, but there are so many aspects that you need to take into consideration. We certainly took note of Kenya's decision, and we need to discuss it with the members of the Council. I wouldn't be giving more details of our position right now.

Q: Ambassador, you had 66 meetings on Ukraine since February 2022, but in the same period, very few on the issue like Palestine. Do you think this issue should be addressed more by meetings and actions?

A: We have Palestine (Middle East) on regular basis in the Security Council. It's absolutely logical because we have a lot of resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We are always very vocal and very supportive. If Palestine and its allies want a more thorough discussion of this issue, more meetings on certain subjects, I don't think we will oppose. But of course, we can't be more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves in this regard.

Q: I'm just a little confused. You're saying you're not blocking the meeting. You probably want to ask for a procedural vote.

A: We will not ask for a procedural vote.

Q: Okay. So then it still seems that a country could ask to have a meeting on Ukraine this month, and it will happen. Was the essence of your disagreement with the Americans the timing of the meeting? Because it was going to be on August 24, the Ukrainian Independence Day. Was that part of it?

A: I think you have wrong information, but I will not go into this detail. Again, I understand that it's sometimes hard to get all these nitty gritty things about what we do in the Council. It's not a problem for us to discuss the Ukrainian crisis itself in all its aspects. We will not block other countries when they ask for meetings. The problem for us is a kind of a placeholder for Ukraine as such on the agenda of the Security Council, because we see no reasons for this. Maybe it's hard to understand, but believe me, it's a principled position. Otherwise, I don't think Linda [Thomas-Greenfield] would go forward to stay without an agenda, and without a PoW because of this. So it's also a principled position for the US and its allies. It's not our choice, but it takes two to tango. I don't think we are dancing at all, but again, that's what we have.


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