Yuriy Sergeyev: “Ukraine wants to create a coalition for the protection of the interests of our region – Europe”
The Ukrainian Week spoke to the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations about the transformation of the UN, Ukraine’s cooperation with neutral member-nations, and isolation of Moscow
U.W: On November 14, Russia abstained from voting in the UN Security Council for the extension of the stabilisation mission in Bosnia. Statements were then sounded that it is links the Ukrainian issue to others in consideration at the Security Council. Are there any steps that could be taken to transform the UN to prevent this in the short-term prospect?
– The issue of the UN system reform is not new; it has been discussed for several decades. It was activated in this millennium, with the particularly active phase happening right now. Both the Security Council and the mechanism of the General Assembly need to be reformed. The Security Council is the most complicated element of this entire system, because that is where decisions that are mandatory for execution by all member-nations are approved, while those approved in the General Assembly are of a recommendatory nature. I have the feeling that next year will see an active search for solutions as to how to make the Security Council more effective and restrict blocking mechanisms, particularly under conditions of open conflict, when there is a threat to people’s lives. France, one of the member-states with the veto power, has already articulated this position. All of this will be the subject of a difficult discussion, because the system is steeped in bureaucracy. I anticipate that activity to that end will intensify, but I doubt that the decision will be approved quickly.
U.W: During the vote on the territorial integrity of Ukraine in February, 58 countries abstained. How can Kyiv cooperate with those neutral member-states?
– It is important to note that abstaining is perceived in the UN system as an act in favour of a resolution, not against it. Many member-states made their statements on the results, even the ones that abstained or voted against that resolution, so we conclude that Russia and a small group of states were the only ones that did not accept it. Some were contemplating the situation. A number of governments compared it to similar realities in their own regions; some needed additional arguments. The latter appeared later, and we understand why some African countries did not support the resolution. They abstained because they were shocked by the legal consequences of what was happening in Ukraine for their regions. In order to understand challenges they faced, they needed additional consultations on the national and regional levels, and that of society.
U.W.: Do you think these states could support Ukraine’s position in the future?
– We felt and continue to feel the understanding and contribution of the countries that are currently standing with us against the manipulation of international law for the purposes, such as the annexation of Crimea and the occupation or seizure of a territory. It has become clear to them that Russia made disreputable use of the nations’ right to self-determination set forth in the UN Charter. They also understood something else: that the application of this provision in this way is a challenge to their national security. African countries are built on an ethnic principle. What is happening today, for example, in Mali or Libya, where separate regions are demanding independence and manipulating this particular right, signals to many countries, that the situation in Ukraine poses a threat to them. They are now transferring to the side that Ukraine is on – the one protecting international law. Together, we shall decisively act against the use of any provision of the UN Charter in conflict with another provision (namely territorial integrity, which everyone is supposed to comply with and protect).
Different countries had their own reasons for abstaining. Now, all these countries are openly expressing their sympathies for us, so I think that on this basis of protection of international law as a result of this aggression we are consolidating the entire world not only around ourselves, but also around the values that were so flagrantly trampled on by Russia. This pertains to Latin America and Asia… Yes, these countries have certain nuances related to their own history, when their territories were also seized in violation of international law, but they understood that we have become a victim in this case. They were also victims once, so they have now stepped over their own national ambitions, and I feel that we have broader moral and political support.
U.W: All BRICS countries, except for Russia obviously, also abstained from voting on the resolution on territorial integrity of Ukraine. How about these important partners? Can they take our side in the future?
– I feel that they can. We understand why they abstained. By the way, their governments made declarations about that. There is assistance from them. Moreover, in this session, we have already co-authored many resolutions sponsored by them or other countries. We have many joint events planned with each of these countries for the current and upcoming years, including informal ones. Ukraine and India will jointly conduct an interesting chess event, with the support of the UN Secretary-General. This is our bilateral initiative. With the exception of Russia, we have no civilisation clashes with BRICS members, because India, South Africa, and Brazil have respect for human rights and international law as the foundation of their state-building. This is something that Russia lacks. In other words, we have things in common that we can talk about and defend with the above-mentioned countries. And not only with them, but also with other countries of the world, where respect for basic rights and freedoms rules: we have developed a united position and we can build cooperation with them.
U.W: At the G20 summit we saw that Russia is being diplomatically isolated. Is this the case with its representation in the UN?
– Russia is still a member of the United Nations, so its future in it depends on how adequately it behaves. Its leadership understands that the UN statutory documents have been designed in such a way that it is impossible to exclude a permanent member of the Security Council from either this entity or the UN as a whole. Everything is tied in such a way, that holders of the veto power can block many things. However, the feeling of not so much isolation, but rather the loss of respect to Russia is present. Moscow should think about ways to renew this trust.
Meanwhile, we have to be concerned with other things. As long as all these crises related to Russia’s aggression are present, as long as Crimea is not returned to us and we do not bring an end to aggression in Eastern Ukraine, the position of the consolidated world in supporting the legal interests of Ukraine is more important to us than is Russia’s position. This is why we need further consolidation and the solidarity of EU member-states, the members of the OSCE and individual countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan. Ukraine needs the solidarity of regional structures in Africa, such as the African Union, so that by defending our national interests, we can help the world to understand that the whole international security system is under threat. After Russia failed to fulfil its obligations within the framework of the Budapest Memorandum, the foundation of international security as regards the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons was undermined. Now, the entire world has to be made aware that by defending its national and security interests, first and foremost, Ukraine wants to create a coalition for the protection of the interests of our region – Europe. Actually, we are consolidating all countries around ourselves in order to strengthen trust and security measures in the world – this is what is of paramount importance to us at present. All of this will help us to gain support for the resolution of our domestic financial, economic and security problems, that we are hoping for. Of course, we would not like to have the present relations with Russia. And as we appeal to it every day, we tell all Russians, with whom we live as neighbours: Come to your senses! This is what we begin and end with in any of our speeches in the Security Council or the General Assembly.
Yuriy Sergeyev is a Ukrainian diplomat, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations since 2007. He served as Ukraine’s Ambassador to France, Greece and Albania. Since 2008, Mr. Sergeyev has also served as the Ambassador of Ukraine to Bahamas