Ukraine has branded the decision to allow Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to chair a UN Security Council meeting as a “bad joke”.
Mr Lavrov was on Thursday confirmed as the chair of a UN Security Council meeting set to take place in New York in April, despite Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.
Reacting to the decision, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “Russia has usurped its seat; it’s waging a colonial war; its leader is a war criminal wanted by the ICC for kidnapping children.
“The world can’t be a safe place with Russia at UNSC.”
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, said the UN debate chaired by Mr Lavrov would focus on “effective multilateralism through the defence of the principles of the UN Charter”.
The UN Security Council presidency rotates every month between the 15 member states.
There are five permanent members – the US, China, France, Russia and the UK – which are known as “the P5”. Each can individually veto any resolution, a power not afforded to non-permanent members.
Russia last chaired the council in February 2022, the same month that Vladimir Putin’s army invaded Ukraine. Since 2012, Moscow has used its veto 24 times.
The presidency would allow Moscow to set the agenda of the Security Council, but would not influence its decisions.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has destroyed Ukrainian cities and caused the deaths of over 21,900 civilians, according to data released by the UN.
Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Mr Putin for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children.
The news comes as Kyiv said on Thursday that Russian forces had made some gains inside the eastern city of Bakhmut – but at a heavy cost in lives lost. The small mining city has been the site of a bloody infantry battle, with Russian forces seeking their first victory since mid-2022.
“Enemy forces had a degree of success in their actions aimed at storming the city of Bakhmut,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in an overnight report.
“Our defenders are holding the city and are repelling numerous enemy attacks.”
The report gave no details of the Russian gains.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson, told national television: “Bakhmut remains the epicenter of military activity...It's still constantly ‘hot’ there.”
In separate developments, Russia’s security service on Thursday arrested an American reporter from the Wall Street Journal on espionage charges, the first time a US correspondent has been detained on spying accusations since the Cold War.
Evan Gershkovich was detained in the city of Yekaterinburg after allegedly trying to obtain classified information, according to the Federal Security Bureau. The Wall Street Journal vehemently denied the allegations and has called for his immediate release.
The Kremlin has intensified a crackdown on opposition activists and independent journalists amid the war in Ukraine.
Earlier this week, a Russian court convicted a father over social media posts critical of the war and sentenced him to two years in prison while his 13-year-old daughter was sent to an orphanage.