Statement of the MFA of Ukraine on the illegitimacy of the Russian Federation’s presence in the UN Security Council and in the United Nations as a whole
26 December 2022
The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 left unresolved the issue of international rights and obligations of the USSR. From the point of view of international law, the issue of the status of a UN member state and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which the Russian Federation enjoys, remains unsettled.
Russia falsely considers the issue settled, referring to the fact that since December 24, 1991, and publicly – since December 31, 1991, a country name plate for the Russian Federation appeared in the UN Security Council. In fact, according to the UN Charter, there has never been legitimate grounds for this.
The Russian Federation took over the seat of a permanent member of the UN Security Council bypassing the procedures defined by the UN Charter. This happened on the basis of an ordinary letter from the President of the RSFSR Boris Yeltsin, addressed to the UN Secretary General, which was sent on December 24, 31 years ago.
The current UN Charter does not contain the words “Russian Federation”. These words are also missing from Article 23 of the UN Charter in particular, which lists the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The legitimate procedure for the state called “Russian Federation” to become a member of the UN and take a seat among the permanent members of the Security Council was supposed to follow the steps defined by the UN Charter.
In December 1991, the appeal of the Russian Federation regarding the intention to continue the membership of the USSR in the UN had to be properly considered by the Security Council and the General Assembly in accordance with Article 4 of the UN Charter. It provides that the admission of peace-loving states to membership in the United Nations is effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council, and only in this way.
This was the legitimate path taken, inter alia, by the newly formed UN member states Czech Republic and Slovakia after the UN member state called “Czechoslovakia” ceased to exist.
Therefore, the Russian Federation has never gone through the legal procedure to be admitted to membership and therefore illegally occupies the seat of the USSR in the UN Security Council. From a legal and political point of view, there can be only one conclusion: Russia is an usurper of the Soviet Union’s seat in the UN Security Council.
In no way could the agreement of the group of countries of the former USSR in Almaty in December 1991, which was not ratified by the Parliament of Ukraine, substitute the UN Charter. This however allegedly became the basis for Boris Yeltsin, then President of the RSFSR, to address
the UN Secretary General regarding “continuity” of membership of the USSR. At that time, the RSFSR was not a member of the Organization either.
The opinion of the Legal Adviser of the UN Secretariat regarding legal grounds for Russia’s presence in the UN also does not replace the current UN Charter. It also could not serve the basis for tacit consent to admit Russia as a member, neither for the UN Secretariat, nor for the UN member states, including the members of the Security Council.
In fact, it was an unprecedented case in the history of the UN, when a country imposed its membership in the Organization by a unilateral decision, and UN member states were deprived of the statutory right to express themselves by voting in the General Assembly regarding the RSFSR’s intention to be admitted to membership in a way not prescribed by the Charter.
The right of the Russian Federation to join the UN in general is also doubtful, as it failed to meet the main criteria for membership in the Organization. Paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Charter clearly states that membership in the UN is open to all peace-loving states.
The actions of the Russian Federation are contrary to the concept of a “peace-loving” state. Three decades of its illegal presence in the UN have been marked by wars and seizure of other countries’ territories, forceful change of internationally recognized borders, and attempts to satisfy its invasive and neo-imperial ambitions.
Ukraine is currently suffering from a full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation. This was preceded by 8 years of armed aggression against our state.
The attempt of the Russian Federation to annex the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk and Kherson regions of Ukraine as a result of the threat or the use of force, as well as the subsequent military control and temporary occupation of these territories by the Russian Federation, is a violation of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine, as well as of generally recognized principles and norms of international law.
The war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is a violation of the goals and principles of the UN Charter unprecedented since its signing in 1945 and deprives Russia of the right to be called a peace-loving state.
The actions of the Russian Federation in 2014 and 2022 were deplored by the international community. This is evidenced in particular by two resolutions of the UN General Assembly “Territorial integrity of Ukraine” dated March 27, 2014, and “Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations” dated October 12, 2022.
The Russian Federation ignores any attempts of the international community aimed at its return to the principles of international law and the principle of peace-loving.
The resolution of the UN General Assembly “Aggression against Ukraine” dated March 2, 2022, called on the Russian Federation to stop armed aggression against Ukraine, to de-occupy all Ukrainian territories, to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.
On March 16, 2022, the International Court of Justice of the United Nations ordered the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine and cease hostilities.
The Russian Federation defiantly refuses to comply with the binding order of the UN International Court of Justice and the resolution of the UN General Assembly.
The Kremlin’s official statements justifying its airstrikes and missile attacks, global energy blackmail and its “hunger games” by blocking the export of Ukrainian agricultural products, indicate that Russia’s actions do not only constitute genocide of the Ukrainian people, but also have become a direct threat to international peace and security.
The Russian Federation regularly commits acts of terrorism against citizens of Ukraine and other countries. Among such crimes are the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the terrorist attack near Volnovakha, shelling of residential quarters of the Skhidniy microdistrict in Mariupol, explosions during the rally for the unity of Ukraine in Kharkiv, explosions in the Kharkiv club “Stina”, massive missile attacks on critical civilian infrastructure of Ukraine and other terrorist acts.
The geography of the Russian Federation’s crimes against international peace and security goes far beyond the borders of Ukraine.
It is also about the continuation of the USSR’s policy of illegal occupation of Japan’s Northern Islands, as well as fueling instability on the territory of the former USSR – Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, manipulations on the issue of alleged discrimination of Russian-speaking populations in countries of the Baltic and Black Sea regions, attempted coup d’état in Montenegro, etc.
We should not forget the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, the occupation of its territories and the crime of genocide of the Chechen people, as well as the support of the criminal regime of Bashar Assad and numerous crimes against the Syrian people.
The Russian Federation has been fomenting conflicts in Africa for decades. Its actions keep destabilizing Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, and the Central African Republic.
The root causes of all these crimes lie not only in the policy of the Russian Federation to incite conflicts, but also in its systematic blocking of decisions necessary for their resolution.
Since 1991, the Russian Federation has used its veto in the UN Security Council 31 times, almost twice as many as any other permanent member of the Security Council.
Clear examples of this abuse of the veto power were the blocking of a resolution to establish a tribunal to investigate the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17; recognition of mass killings in Srebrenica as genocide and a prerequisite for national reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina; response to the political and humanitarian situation in Venezuela; extension of the mandate of the UN observation mission in Georgia at a critical moment for the country; strengthening of the sanctions regime against the DPRK, as well as 16 resolutions on Syria.
At the current stage of aggression, the Russian Federation, convinced of its impunity, turned to blackmailing the international community by threatening to use nuclear weapons.
It is only a matter of time when the actions of the Russian Federation will destroy the entire UN system – a single and unique global intergovernmental institution that unites all the countries of the world at the negotiating table.
The question of Russia’s fate in the United Nations should be resolved in the general context of its responsibility for gross violations of the norms and principles of international law as well as for crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine, in particular, for war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as the crime of genocide.
Ukraine calls on the member states of the UN to resume the application of the UN Charter in the context of the legitimacy of the Russian Federation’s presence in the UN, to deprive the Russian Federation of its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and to exclude it from the UN as a whole.
We assume that the removal of the Russian Federation from the UN Security Council will not have retroactive effect on the previously adopted decisions of this organ and will not entail the annulment or revision of the resolutions of the Security Council adopted so far.
We believe that, guided by the principle of equality of UN members, the Russian Federation should follow the same international legal path for admission to membership in the Organization as other countries did. At the same time, the return of the Russian Federation to the UN in the future can be considered only if it complies with the criteria for UN membership. Compliance with the procedure defined by the UN Charter will restore the right of each member state to vote in the UN General Assembly whether to admit the Russian Federation to the United Nations or not — a statutory right they were deprived of 31 years ago.
Only after Russia fulfills the conditions for membership in the Organization, contained in paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the UN Charter, could Russia be admitted to membership by a decision of the UN General Assembly upon the recommendation of the UN Security Council, as provided for in paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the UN Charter.
Ukraine initiates a complex process aimed at achieving the goals of this statement, and in this context is ready to cooperate with other countries to jointly protect the UN Charter and international law from the destructive influence of the Russian Federation.