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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for major reforms to the UN Security Council, addressing the body in person for the first time since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of his country in February last year.
The Ukrainian leader assailed the Security Council's veto system, in which the five permanent members can block any action for any reason.
Given the tense dynamics between some of the five – China, Russia, the UK, US and France – critics say the body has become all but useless on key issues. Mr Zelenskyy said the veto system has pushed the UN into “deadlock”.
“We should not wait for the aggression to be over. We need to act now. Our aspiration for peace should drive the reform.”
Russia has used its veto to prevent the Security Council from passing resolutions condemning its annexation of Ukrainian regions.
The Ukrainian President added that the “UN General Assembly should be given real power to overcome the veto”.
Mr Zelenskyy proposed a system in which two thirds of the UN General Assembly should be able to counteract one country’s veto.
“In the event of two thirds of the votes, reflecting the will of nations from Asia, Africa, Europe, both Americas and the Pacific region – in other words, a global qualified majority – the veto should be effectively overcome and such resolution of the General Assembly must be legally binding,” he said.
Ukraine and western countries have successfully isolated Russia diplomatically at the UN, where the 193-member General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted several times to condemn the invasion and demand Moscow withdraw its troops.
Their argument has been simple: Russia has violated the 1945 UN Charter.
Public enthusiasm for the war effort is waning in many Nato countries, the summer counter-offensive has hit stubborn Russian defences, and soon colder, wetter weather will make many rural roads impassable for heavy vehicles.
Mr Zelenskyy also called for the number of permanent members of the Security Council to be expanded to include more countries form other regions of the world.
After Mr Zelenskyy spoke, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken used the Security Council session, which was attended by his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, to accuse Moscow of crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
“Russia is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine on a daily basis,” Mr Blinken said.
Russia tried to delay Mr Zelenskyy’s remarks to the Security Council by questioning why the Ukrainian leader had been given permission to speak before other members present.
“We wish to ask you on what basis you propose to give the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy the floor before members of the Security Council,” said Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s representative to the UN, at the opening of Security Council meeting.
Later this week, the Ukrainian leader is set to travel to Washington, where he will hold a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden.