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Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has criticized the United Nations Security Council, describing it as “ineffective” due to the power of the Russian veto. Speaking at a special Security Council meeting, Zelensky emphasized that the only path to lasting peace is the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
Zelensky’s address marked a significant moment, as it represented the highest-level direct confrontation over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine within the United Nations.
In the context of the United Nations, veto power is a special privilege held by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This privilege allows these nations to block or “veto” any significant resolution or decision proposed by the Security Council. This means that if any one of these five countries opposes a resolution, it cannot be adopted. It is regardless of the number of affirmative votes from other UN member states.
The use of the veto power by the permanent members has been a contentious issue within the UN. It can result in deadlock or inaction, particularly when the P5 members disagree on critical global matters.
What does Russian veto mean for the rest?
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Moscow’s utilization of the veto, asserting its legitimacy. He accused Kyiv and Western nations of selectively adhering to the principles of the 1945 UN Charter. He asserted that they are applying them only when convenient. This exchange sparked a heated discussion within the United Nations.
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine began with the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022. Russian forces launched attacks in various major Ukrainian cities, including Berdyansk, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Sumy, and the capital, Kyiv. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed 9,614 deaths in Ukraine as of September 2023. It is a stark reminder of the ongoing humanitarian toll of the conflict.