Ukraine Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya holds up the Charter Of The United Nations handbook while speaking at an emergency special session on the Ukraine Russia conflict at United Nations headquarters in New York City in March. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's permanent ambassador to the United Nations, on Tuesday criticized Russia's placement as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
Kyslytsya, speaking with UPI at the Ukrainian mission in New York City, also accused Russia of making a "desperate" bid to control the narrative around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and commented on the U.N.'s negotiations with Turkey, Russia and Ukraine on grain exports.
"If you open article 108 of the U.N. Charter, you see that any changes to the charter of U.N. can be done if only the Security Council agrees and the Security Council can agree if only none of the permanent members veto," Kyslytsya said.
"Russia is not a permanent member. Russia occupies the seat of the Soviet Union, which is a permanent member. When you have this situation where a country is allowed to call itself a permanent member, when the country is allowed -- irrespectively of the most egregious and systematic violations of the U.N. Charter -- to continue to apply veto, it's basically, it's impossible to achieve any meaningful reform."
Kyslytsya avoided explicitly saying that Russia should no longer occupy the permanent seat on the Security Council vacated by the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
"Look, it's a very long conversation, and to look at it holistically, you have to go back to 1991 when the Soviet Union disappeared from the political map," Kyslytsya said.
Kyslytsya said Western intelligence failed to predict the speed at which the Soviet Union would cease to exist and that politicians, including some in the United States, were "paranoid" because a major nuclear power was disappearing rapidly.
He said Western officials were "thrilled" when Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation, said he would take control of the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal and assumed the Soviet Union's permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council "bypassing all requirements on paper."
"That was the instant when Moscow realized that they can manipulate the West and the entire world with the threat of nuclear arsenals and to make them follow the ultimate vision of Moscow," Kyslytsya said.
He said that the West has since turned a "blind eye on many nasty things" that Moscow has done, including occupying parts of Georgia in 2008 and other countries.
"We all let Russia believe that, eventually, the West would not take a united strong position to punish Russia for what Russia does. And this was a fundamental miscalculation of Putin this winter, when he decided to go ahead and to launch the full-scale invasion," Kyslytsya said.
"The Russian plans smash not only against the determination of Ukrainians to defend their country, but also the unity of the collective democratic world."
Nuclear plant danger
Speaking ahead of a Tuesday meeting of the Security Council, Kyslytsya said Russia had called for the meeting in a "desperate" bid to control the narrative around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
He said Ukrainian officials and members of the Security Council had been preparing for a meeting called for by Ukraine and its partners set for Wednesday, Ukraine's day of independence from the Soviet Union and the six-month mark since Russia invaded Feb. 24.
"It is a very predictable move that serves at least two purposes, to hijack and spoil the attention of the meeting that our partners have called for and to make a desperate attempt to promote the Russian narrative about what is going on at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant," Kyslytsya said.
"We already have had this discussion on Zaporizhzhia, with all the levels. I, specifically in a very simplified manner, told the Russian side what exactly they should do to remove this threat to all Europe and beyond. If something terrible happens, it potentially can be much worse than Chernobyl."
Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and the first operating nuclear power plant in a war zone, was seized by Russian troops earlier this year. Western officials and the International Atomic Energy Agency fear that recent artillery fire in and near it poses an imminent nuclear threat to Europe.
"Only mentally challenged people can imagine that the Ukrainians would like the nuclear power plant to explode or to be damaged to the extent that the Ukrainians themselves and the territory around it to become literally unlivable for hundreds, if not thousands of years," Kyslytsya said.
Kyslytsya said Russia's placement of troops and military equipment in the nuclear power plant poses a threat because nuclear facilities are very complicated structures "and there are many clear protocols that should be followed even in the peaceful time."
He said one of the nuclear reactors needs to be refueled by the end of the month and, even in peacetime, the procedure would only be done in the presence of a team from the IAEA, which is led by Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi.
Kyslytsya said Moscow has tried "sabotaging the visit of Grossi's team" while telling the world that they invited the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog to visit the plant.
"They tried to make the team travel through the Russian territory and through the occupied territory to the plant, which is totally unacceptable," Kyslytsya said.
"I'm pretty much sure that the United Nations is not really willing to make any steps that would violate both Ukrainian legislation and international law."
Kyslytsya questioned the motivation for having the IAEA team travel through Russia and Russian-held Ukrainian territory to access the Zaporizhzhia plant.
"If you look at a map, you will see that the nuclear power plant sits on a bank on the river that is controlled by the Russian army. The Ukrainian government controls the other bank of the river," Kyslytsya said.
"It is not the case where a nuclear power plant sits deep inside occupied territory. All the Russians have to say is that they will not shell what they regularly do almost every day, the Ukrainian territory across the river. Then the team can reach the nuclear power plant."
Kyslytsya said having the IAEA team travel through Russia to reach the site would serve "many purposes for the Russian side as aggressor and as occupier" and would "undermine the legitimacy of the mission from the point of view of international law."
"Why in the world does the International Atomic Energy has to travel from Vienna to, let's say, Rostov in Russia and then to move to the occupied territory? If you go from here to Queens, you just take a ferry from 34th Street. You don't take a plane to Boston first."
Crimea, grain exports
Russian-occupied Crimea, forcibly annexed by Moscow in 2014, has become an increasing target of attacks, though Ukraine has not claimed credit for such strikes.
"Crimea is the sovereign territory of Ukraine. No matter what Russia wants you believe, according to the United Nations, is the sovereign territory of Ukraine," Kyslytsya said.
His comments came as more than 60 countries gathered for the second summit to establish the international community's platform on Crimea, called for by Zelensky and attended by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
World leaders who attended included French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian President Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The countries that participated in the summit released a joint statement that unequivocally reiterated that Crimea is a territory of Ukraine and condemned Russia's "temporary occupation of Crimea."
Kyslytsya also praised Guterres for his dialogue with representatives from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine in negotiating the exports of grain.
"The kind of dialogue I may assume he had with my leadership allowed him to be trusted to go ahead with his initiative on grain exports. And that was his initiative," Kyslytsya said.
"He had done a lot to achieve the result of signing the trilateral arrangement in Istanbul. And by now we have already a couple of dozens of ships loaded with grain leaving Ukrainian ports."
Kyslytsya addressed the challenges in garnering support for Ukraine and support for the United Nations' work in aiding the country.
"It's very difficult to sell the United Nations to the public because the United Nations suffers from a very high toxicity of perception about it due to the failure of the Security Council," Kyslytsya said.
"The failure of the Security Council to deliver on its major mandate to prevent war kind of contaminates the entire U.N. system. It is very difficult oftentimes to explain, even to the educated public, that the U.N. is not just the Security Council."
He praised the U.N. General Assembly and "dozens of U.N. agencies" for supporting Ukraine. In March, the UNGA approved a resolution that condemned Russian aggression with only four countries supporting Russia.
Kyslytsya added that the General Assembly followed up that resolution with one that led to Russia "shamelessly" making a statement that they will leave the U.N.'s Human Rights Council.
He defended Guterres, who he said seemed reluctant "to play a meaningful role" in preventing the imminent invasion but has since played a prominent role in responding to Russia's war in Ukraine.
He said that of the 111 articles in the U.N. Charter, there are only five articles about the Secretary-General and even fewer that impart powers in him.
"None of the permanent members in the entire history of the United Nations ever wanted the Secretary-General to be a general, they all wanted him to be a secretary," Kyslytsya said.
"It was not that simple for him to override this the provisions and the policies of the permanent members [of the Security Council]."
He described Guterres as "an accomplished world-class politician" who has "very high moral standards."
"He never ever lied to us. He never ever misled me. He has always been genuine," Kyslytsya said.
He praised Guterres for making "a very important effort" to visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin and then to Ukraine to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"He had a very long conversation with Putin. And he had a very long set of conversations with Zelensky and his team. That allowed him to understand both sides better, that allow us to understand the Secretary-General better," Kyslytsya said.
"He not only read what his political department prepared, but actual history, culture, language, and socioeconomic problems and that helped him, I can assume, to have to have this difficult conversation with Putin who is obsessed with his clear vision of the Russian Empire."
Kyslytsya also addressed a lack of support among some in the United States and other countries, who he said are not educated by current or past politicians on the situation in Ukraine.
"It's very easy, but eventually deadly, to consume only fast food. The easiest way to deal with the public is to sell and to offer a promise for nothing. Fast food," Kyslytsya said.
"If you elect members of parliament, for presidents, who are supported by public only because they sell fast food you will basically slowly killing your nation."
He said it is the duty of "responsible politicians" to educate citizens on where to find accurate information about the war in Ukraine to get a "holistic picture where you will see that you are blessed that it is the Ukrainian soldiers who die in the front and not American soldiers."
"If Ukraine fails, the domino effect will lead to invasion of central Europe, invasion of central Europe will undermine continental security, intercontinental trade and the entire system of this successful capitalism," Kyslytsya said.
"The gas prices that you are so unhappy with will not be $4 per gallon or $5. They will go to $12 per gallon."
Kyslytsya added that the operations of the United Nations are "impossible without the United States." He said that Russia pays less than 2% of the U.N.'s regular budget but that the United States funds 25% of its budget.
"You have this rogue, corrupt criminal regime that occupies the seat of the Soviet Union, that they have never even taken properly, who pay around 2% to the budgets of the United Nations, and who pretend that they are global power, who kills its neighbors," Kyslytsya said.
"The only thing that keeps the entire world hostage is the nuclear arsenal with Russia. That's it."
Kyslytsya said the mission, though not the country's consulate general in the United States, organizes events for Ukrainian refugees and Americans of Ukrainian descent and will soon display an exhibit of art commenting on sexual violence as a weapon of war currently exhibited at the Fridman Gallery.
"We are very proud of our Ukrainians here in the United States," Kyslytsya said.
"The thing is that there are millions of Ukrainian citizens displaced since February, the majority of them landed in Poland and in other neighboring countries."
Kyslytsya particularly praised the Polish government and citizens for their "incredible" efforts to help Ukrainian women and children fleeing the war.
"Almost every Polish citizen, you know, the Poles are driving in their cars to the border to pick up the refugees and settling them in, in their private houses. It's incredible," Kyslytsya said.
He said Zelensky has initiated a bill in the country's parliament that would grant to the Polish citizens in Ukraine rights on par with Ukrainian citizens "as a recognition of the generosity of the Polish government."