Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the UN Security Council meeting “Upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter through effective multilateralism: maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine,” New York, September 20, 2023:
The international order as it exists today emerged from the ruins of World War II and resulted from this tremendous tragedy. The UN Charter served as its foundation, as the key source of present-day international law. It is largely thanks to the United Nations that a new world war leading to a nuclear catastrophe has been averted.
Unfortunately, when the Cold War came to an end, the US-led so-called collective West appropriated the right to rule the destinies of the entire humankind and, driven by its exceptionalism complex, started ignoring the legacy of the UN founding fathers more often and on an increasingly greater scale.
Today, the West makes selective use of the Charter’s norms and principles, on a case-by-case basis, and only when they serve its vested geopolitical needs. This inevitably throws global stability off-balance, exacerbating the existing hotbeds of tension and creating new ones, which in turn raises the spectre of a global conflict in the process. Seeking to offset these risks and ensure that events unfold in a peaceful manner, Russia has been insisting and keeps insisting that all the provisions of the UN Charter be respected and carried out in full and with due regard for their interconnected nature, rather than selectively, including the principles of the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in their domestic affairs, respect for territorial integrity and the right of people to self-determination. However, we see that the balance of requirements stipulated in the Charter is being trampled upon by the actions undertaken by the United States and its allies.
The United States and its allies have been interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs in a blatant and open manner since the dissolution of the USSR, when independent states replaced it. In late 2013, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland admitted publicly and even with some pride that Washington spent $5 billion on nurturing politicians in Kiev that would obey the West.
All the facts on how the Ukraine crisis was engineered have long been exposed, while everything is being done to sweep them under the carpet as if they wanted to cancel everything that happened before 2014. For this reason, the topic of today’s meeting as suggested by the Albanian Presidency is very timely. It offers us an opportunity to restore the sequence of events in the context of the way the key actors have been carrying out the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.
In 2004 and 2005, the West sought to bring a pro-American candidate to power and for this purpose gave the green light to the first government coup in Kiev by forcing the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to adopt an illegal decision for holding a third round in the presidential election, even though the country’s Constitution does not provide for it. The West acted in an even more heavy-handed manner when it interfered in Ukraine’s internal affairs in 2013 and 2014, during the second Maidan movement. At the time, Western visitors travelled there one after another to directly encourage those taking part in anti-government demonstrations to engage in violence. It was the same Victoria Nuland who discussed the future cabinet to be formed by the putsch perpetrators with the US Ambassador in Kiev. At the same time, she showed where the European Union actually belongs, in Washington’s thinking, on the international political stage. We remember the two words she said, and it is quite telling that the European Union swallowed it.
Handpicked by the Americans, the key actors took part in carrying out a bloody coup in February 2014. Let me remind you that it was organised the next day after the legitimately elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, reached an agreement with the opposition leaders, with Germany, Poland and France acting as the guarantors. The principle of non-interference in domestic affairs was trampled upon many times over.
Right after the coup, its perpetrators said that curtailing the rights of Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population was their utmost priority. They designated people in Crimea and southeastern regions who refused to accept the anti-constitutional coup as terrorists and unleashed a punitive operation against them. Crimea and Donbass responded by holding referendums in full compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples as enshrined in Article 1, Paragraph 2 of the UN Charter.
When it comes to Ukraine, Western diplomats and politicians have been turning a blind eye to this fundamental tenet of international law in an attempt to cast what led to these developments and their meaning as being merely an unacceptable violation of territorial integrity. In this connection, I would like to recall the 1970 UN Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States. It reads that the principle of territorial integrity applies to “states conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples <…> and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory.” It goes without saying that the Ukrainian neo-Nazis who seized power in Kiev did not represent the people of Crimea or Donbass. As for the unquestionable support the Western capitals offered to the criminal Kiev regime, it was nothing short of violating the self-determination principle on top on interfering in domestic affairs.
Following the government coup, Ukraine adopted racist laws to cancel everything Russian during Petr Poroshenko’s and Vladimir Zelensky’s presidencies, including education, media, culture, destroying books and monuments, banning the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and seizing its property. All this constituted a blatant violation of Article 1, Paragraph 3 of the UN Charter, which talks about encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion. Let alone the fact that these actions clearly ran counter to the Constitution of Ukraine under which the state is under obligation to respect the rights of Russians and other ethnic minorities.
Hearing calls to follow the so-called peace formula and return Ukraine within its 1991 borders raises the following question: are those making these calls aware of the statements by the Ukrainian leadership on what they intend to do to the people living in those territories? These people have been targeted by multiple public threats of being exterminated, either in legal or physical terms, and this has been happening at an official level. Not only is the West unwilling to hold back its protégés in Kiev, but enthusiastically encourages them in their racist policies.
Similarly, the EU and NATO have been encouraging Latvia and Estonia for decades in their efforts to deny hundreds of thousands of Russian speakers their rights by designating them as non-citizens. They are now seriously discussing introducing criminal liability for using one’s native tongue. High-ranking officials have been making public statements that spreading information about opportunities for local students to follow the Russian school curriculum remotely must be viewed as nothing short of a national security threat requiring the attention of law enforcement agencies.
But getting back to Ukraine, the UN Security Council adopted a dedicated resolution to approve the February 2015 Minsk Agreements in full compliance with Article 36 of the Charter, which supports “any procedures for the settlement of the dispute which have already been adopted by the parties.” In this case, the parties included Kiev, the DPR and the LPR. However, last year, all those who signed the Minsk Agreements, apart from Vladimir Putin, i.e., Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Petr Poroshenko, all recognised in public and with a certain degree of satisfaction that they had no intention of fulfilling this document when they signed it. In fact, all they wanted was to win some time to reinforce Ukraine’s military capabilities and supply it with more weapons for countering Russia. For all these years, the EU and NATO engaged in an outright effort to support Kiev in sabotaging the Minsk Agreements while encouraging the Kiev regime to resolve the so-called Donbass issue by force. All this was being done in violation of Article 25 of the Charter, which says that all UN members must “accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.”
Let me recall that the Minsk Package included a declaration signed by the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine. In it, Berlin and Paris undertook to do many things, including help restore the banking system in Donbass. However, they did not even move a finger. All they did was stand back and watch Petr Poroshenko impose a trade, economic and transport blockade on Donbass despite all these commitments. In the same declaration, Berlin and Paris undertook to facilitate trilateral cooperation between the EU, Russia and Ukraine for addressing Russia’s concerns in trade, as well as promote the “creation of a joint humanitarian and economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific.” The Security Council adopted this declaration too, making it binding under Article 25 of the UN Charter as I have already mentioned. But this commitment by the leaders of Germany and France turned out to be null and void, becoming yet another violation of the Charter’s principles.
Andrey Gromyko, the legendary Foreign Minister of the USSR, often said, quite rightly, that “ten years of talks are better than one day of war.” In keeping with this maxim, we spent many years in talks and sought agreements on European security. We approved the Russia-NATO Founding Act and adopted OSCE declarations on indivisible security at the highest level in 1999 and 2010. Since 2015, we have been insisting that the Minsk Agreements be executed in full and without any exemptions as agreed during the talks. In all these instances, we acted in full compliance with the UN Charter, which talks about establishing “conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.” Our Western colleagues have trampled upon this principle too by signing all these documents knowing in advance that they would not fulfil them.
As for talks, we do not refuse to talk now either. President of Russia Vladimir Putin said this on numerous occasions, including recently. I would like to remind the Secretary of State that President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky has signed an executive order prohibiting talks with the government of Vladimir Putin. If the United States is interested in such talks, I think it only needs to give the signal for Zelensky’s order to be cancelled.
Today, the rhetoric of our opponents is full of slogans such as “invasion,” “aggression” and “annexation.” They do not say a word about the inner reasons for the problem, or the fact that for many years they nurtured a downright Nazi regime, which is openly rewriting the results of World War II and the history of their own people. The West does not want to hold a substantial discussion based on facts and respect for all the requirements of the UN Charter, probably because they have no arguments for an honest dialogue.
One gets a strong impression that Western representatives are afraid of professional discussions where their empty rhetoric can be exposed. While chanting their mantras about the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the former colonial powers keep silent about the UN decisions inviting France to return the island of Mayotte to the Comoros and Britain to withdraw from the Chagos Islands and to resume negotiations with Argentina to resolve the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) issue. These “advocates” of Ukraine’s territorial integrity pretend to have forgotten the essence of the Minsk Agreements, under which Donbass was to be reintegrated into Ukraine on the condition of guaranteed respect for all the fundamental human rights, primarily the right to one’s own language. The West, which thwarted their implementation, is directly responsible for the disintegration of Ukraine and for inciting a civil war there.
Regarding other principles of the UN Charter, respect for which could have prevented the security crisis in Europe and could have helped coordinate confidence measures based on a balance of interests, I would like to cite Article 2 of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. It calls for developing the practice of a peaceful settlement of local disputes through regional organisations.
In accordance with that principle, Russia and its allies have been consistently encouraging contacts between the CSTO and NATO for promoting the implementation of decisions on the indivisibility of security adopted at the OSCE summits in 1999 and 2010. They stipulate, in part, that “no state, group of states or organisation can have any pre-eminent responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the OSCE area or can consider any part of the OSCE area as its sphere of influence.” Everyone knows that this is exactly what NATO has been doing, that is has been trying to create its complete pre-eminence first in Europe and now in the Asia-Pacific region. Numerous appeals from the CSTO to NATO were disregarded. The reason for that arrogance of the United States and its allies, as everyone can see today, is their unwillingness to conduct an equal dialogue with anyone. If NATO had not rejected the CSTO’s offers of cooperation, this could have likely prevented many of the negative processes that have led to the current European crisis because they refused to listen to Russia or deceived it for decades.
Today, when we are discussing “effective multilateralism” at the initiative of the presidency, we should also recall the numerous facts of Western rejection of any form of equal cooperation. One shocking example of the phrase by Josep Borrel, who said that “Europe is a garden [and] most of the rest of the world is a jungle.” It is a clear neocolonial syndrome and evidence of disregard for the sovereign equality of states and the goal of using effective multilateralism to defend the principles of the UN Charter, which we are discussing today.
Trying to hinder efforts to make international relations more democratic, the United States and its allies are taking over the secretariats of international organisations increasingly openly and impudently, violating the established procedure to create mechanisms with non-consensual mandates, which they can control and use to condemn anyone who does not suit Washington for whatever reason.
In this connection, I would like to remind you that not only member states but also the UN Secretariat must strictly comply with the UN Charter. Under Article 100 of the UN Charter, the Secretariat must act without bias and “shall not seek or receive instructions from any government.”
I have already mentioned Article 2 of the UN Charter. I would like to draw your attention to its main principle: “1. The Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.” In accordance with that principle, the UN General Assembly adopted a declaration on October 24, 1970, which I have mentioned before, to reaffirm that “every state has an inalienable right to choose its political, economic, social and cultural systems, without interference in any form by another state.” In this connection, we have serious questions for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said on March 29, 2023, that “autocratic leadership is not a guarantor of stability; it is a catalyst of chaos and conflict,” whereas “strong democratic societies are places that are capable of self-correction — and self-improvement. They can enable change — even radical change – without bloodshed and violence.” This brings to mind the “changes” that resulted from the actions of “strong democratic societies” in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and many other countries.
Antonio Guterres went on to say that “they [strong democratic societies] are centres for broad-based cooperation, rooted in the principles of equality, participation and solidarity.” It is notable that these statements were made at the “summit for democracy,” which was convened by US President Joe Biden outside the UN framework, whose participants were chosen by the US Administration based on the principle of loyalty not to so much to Washington as to the ruling Democratic Party. The attempts to use such forums as a crony gathering for discussing global matters stand in direct conflict with Paragraph 4 of Article 1 of the UN Charter, which says that the purpose of the United Nations is “to be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”
Contrary to that principle, France and Germany announced several years ago the establishment of an Alliance for Multilateralism, to which they invited those who are obedient, which confirmed the initiators’ colonial mentality and attitude to the principle of effective multilateralism we are discussing today. At the same time, they promoted the narrative about the EU as the ideal example of “multilateralism.” Today, Brussels calls for the EU enlargement as soon as possible, in particular, in the Balkans. Moreover, the main focus is not on Serbia or Turkey, which have been holding useless accession talks for decades, but on Ukraine. Josep Borrel, who claims the role of the ideologist of European integration, has recently gone as far as to call for accelerating the admission of the Kiev regime into the EU. According to him, without the war, Ukraine’s candidacy would have taken years, but now it can and should be admitted without any conditions. Serbia, Turkey and other candidates can wait, but a Nazi regime can be admitted out of turn.
By the way, the UN Secretary-General said the following at that “summit for democracy”: “Democracy flows from the United Nations Charter. Its opening invocation of ‘We the Peoples’ reflects the fundamental source of legitimate authority: the consent of the governed.” I suggest comparing that thesis with the “achievements” of the Kiev regime, which launched a war against a large part of its own people, the millions of people who did not grant their consent to be governed by the neo-Nazis and Russophobes who usurped authority in the country and buried the Minsk Agreements approved by the UN Security Council, thereby disrupting the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Those who divide the world into “democratic societies” and “autocracies,” contrary to the UN Charter, should ask themselves which of the two the Kiev regime is. But I do not expect them to answer.
When we talk about the principles of the UN Charter, we should also address the issue of relations between the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. The Western “team” has been aggressively espousing the idea of the “abuse of veto” for a long time and has ensured – by putting pressure on other UN member states – the adoption of a decision on convening a General Assembly meeting every time the veto is cast, even though it is the West that provokes this increasingly frequently. We do not regard this as a problem. Russia’s positions on all issues on the agenda are open to the public. We have nothing to hide, and it is not difficult for us to put forth our positions again. Besides, veto is an absolutely legitimate instrument that is stipulated in the UN Charter to prevent the adoption of decisions that can split the Organisation. However, since the procedure of discussing every veto at a General Assembly meeting has been approved, why not discuss also the Security Council resolutions that have been adopted, including many years ago, but are not being implemented, contrary to the provisions of Article 25 of the UN Charter? Why cannot the General Assemble discuss reasons for this, for example, with regard to UNSC resolutions on Palestine and the entire range of issues related to the Middle East and North Africa, the JCPOA, or Resolution 2202, which approved the Minsk Agreements on Ukraine?
The issue of sanctions should be given attention as well. It has become standard practice that after the UNSC adopts sanctions against a certain country, after long discussions and in strict compliance with the UN Charter, the United States and its allies adopt “additional” unilateral restrictions against that same state without the approval of the Security Council or the inclusion of these sanctions into a council’s resolution within the framework of a coordinated package. A regrettable illustration is a recent decision by Germany, France and Britain to use their national legislations to “extend” restrictions against Iran, which will expire in October under UNSC Resolution 2231. In other words, European countries and Britain have announced that they do not care that the UNSC decision has expired, because they have their own “rules.”
This is why it is so important to consider a decision according to which nobody will have a right to devalue UNSC resolutions on sanctions by adopting their own illegitimate restrictions against that same country.
Furthermore, all sanctions regimes adopted by the UN Security Council should have an expiry date, because the lack of a deadline is undermining the council’s flexibility when it comes to the ability to influence the policies of sanctioned governments.
It is also necessary to address the issue of the “humanitarian limits of sanctions.” It would make sense for the drafts of sanctions proposals submitted to the Security Council to include the assessment of their possible humanitarian consequences made by the UN human rights bodies, rather than the empty rhetoric of our Western colleagues to the effect that “ordinary people will not suffer.”
Facts point to a deep crisis in international relations and the absence of the Western countries’ desire and will to overcome this crisis.
I hope a way out of this situation exists and will be found. But first all of us should acknowledge our responsibility for the future of our Organisation and the world in the historical context rather than in terms of the immediate populist electoral considerations in any member state. I would like to repeat that, when global leaders signed the UN Charter nearly 80 years ago, they agreed to respect the sovereign equality of all states be they big or small, rich or poor, monarchies or republics. In other words, back then humanity recognised the importance of an equal and polycentric world order as the guarantee of stable and safe development.
Therefore, the issue today is not about giving our consent to a “rules-based world order” but about fulfilling the obligations all of us assumed by signing and ratifying the UN Charter in their entirety and as a whole.”
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