Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN: the Whole world is interested in normal relations between the US and Russia

Ukraine completed its chairmanship of the UN security Council and gave it the right of great Britain. During the Ukrainian presidency in February, the security Council held an emergency meeting because of the worsening situation in Avdiivka, then took a Ukraine-initiated resolution on the protection of critical infrastructure, and later held an open debate on the issue of conflict in Europe. Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Nations VOLODYMYR Yelchenko in interview “” has told, what has been achieved by the state this month if he was happy with the new Permanent representative to the UN, Nikki Haley and what needs to be further diplomatic efforts of Ukraine towards settlement of the conflict over the Donbass and Crimea. Remembered about relations with Vitaly Churkin.


Last month Ukraine has held the chairmanship in the UN Security Council. Ukrainian permanent mission invited colleagues own thematic discussions and relevant resolutions on the protection of critical infrastructure and conflict resolution in Europe. What are your impressions from their consideration?

We have started preparation for the presidency, so everything happened according to the plans, which according to the schedule we have set for ourselves. It’s a tradition in the Security Council over the past years, every presiding officer shall rule questions that are not in the permanent agenda of the Security Council, but which are of interest and are valuable from the point of view of the security Council mandate. It is clear that for us important was the question of conflicts in Europe, namely in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Crimea and so on.

And the second question — the protection of critical infrastructure — it was the theme, based on our experience. We held a preparatory meeting in the last year on this subject, and after that we have been approached by many partners from other countries with the offer, why not hold a meeting of the Security Council on this subject and take an appropriate decision. In fact, we were able to develop a sufficiently detailed resolution, which was approved by all members of the Security Council and received 15 votes. This is a code of conduct in the context of preventing terrorist attacks or threats against critical infrastructure. We had interesting speakers on this matter from Interpol, the International Maritime organization, the OPCW. We were able to attract such specialists, as a rule, the Security Council does not act, and it was very interesting to hear their opinion. Almost the next day after the adoption of this resolution took place and the meeting of the NSDC of Ukraine, which approved a similar programme of action for Ukraine, which actually was fully implemented the resolution of the UN Security Council. So, it was a benefit for the UN and for other countries, and actually for us.

I would have noted this aspect of our presidency is the emergence of questions that focused on the Ukrainian theme and which we had not foreseen. The month of February began to review the situation in the Donbass, it was 2 numbers. And this was the first opportunity for the US delegation led by the new Ambassador to Express a very clear and firm position of the new US administration on the situation between Russia and Ukraine, including the position on the Crimea. In addition, we have heard separate briefing — priorities of the Austrian chairmanship of the OSCE. So, the lion’s share of the discussion and the report of the Minister of foreign Affairs of Austria Mr. Sebastian Kurz, have been to Ukraine. And then we had the so-called final session on the last day of the presidency. Some delegations in the security Council initiate such a final discussion to evaluate the work of the Security Council for the month. It was a pleasant surprise that several members of the Council appealed again to the Ukrainian theme; for example, USA, UK, France, Japan made reference to their previous statements and condemning Russian aggression and other fundamental aspects. So the month went out with a Ukrainian accent, not only in terms of the presidency, but also in terms of the focus on Ukrainian issues.

— Still major dividends is these discussions for Ukraine or some branding achievement?

— Of course, the image reaching it is impossible to forget, especially since we received a very high rating of our presidency. I specifically wrote some letters of thanks we received: “elegant, flawless, masterful chairmanship”. It is nice and these words apply not only to the Ukrainian delegation in the UN, but also Ukraine itself. We have proved that the fears that was 1.5 years ago and was very actively circulated in Russia before our election to the Security Council that “if Ukraine chooses, it will be a country of one issue”, that is, except their own problems, we in the Council will not do anything — was unfounded. We have proved that, not forgetting, of course, about their own problems, we bear collective responsibility for security, like all other members of the Security Council. In addition, the debate about conflicts in Europe, the question is not closed, we are now preparing a final document which may be approved by the Security Council or at least will remain in the “files” of the Council.

— How can you comment on the accusations of some Ukrainian politicians who now do not hold official posts, they say, the leadership of Ukraine has not used its chairmanship of the UN Security Council in order to submit claims of Kiev and offer a plan for Crimea or Donbass. In particular, give an example of Serbian President Tomislav nikolić, who spoke on Kosovo in the UN. Whether such criticisms are appropriate and justified, in your opinion?

I understand the motives of those people who do it because, first, no one spoke, which in itself is membership in the Security Council will solve all our issues. On the contrary I myself have said in the past year, I do not think that the presence of Ukraine in the Security Council itself will resolve the conflict in the Donbas and Ukraine will return the Crimea. Another thing is that we got a powerful voice that we use actively, and during February we have seen. But don’t forget that at the same table with us sits the Russian delegation, it is a country that has a veto. And even if everyone else would want, we understand perfectly well that Russia would block any solution that would be able to quickly resolve the situation. There would be no Russian veto, things would be very different. I am not inclined to share the opinion that we have not used its presidency. On the contrary, it seems to me that it is the month of our presidency has shown that Ukraine has a strong support, because it is not only about what we say and what we hear from other countries.

— Recently Mr. Klimkin advocated the restriction of the veto of Russia in the security Council. Earlier you noted that the deprivation of the right of veto is almost impossible, because the other permanent members of the security Council will not waive such a right, it’s not in their interests. So, a question for you: is it possible to deny or restrict the right of veto only Moscow as a party to the conflict in the Donbas, remembering that, in accordance with the Minsk agreements, it is not a party to the conflict?

— Today this is unlikely. Yes, article 27 of the UN Charter, which says very generally that a country that is a party to the dispute, does not participate in the consideration of the matter in the security Council. That is like Russia needs to step aside and not participate in any decisions concerning Ukraine. But let’s not forget that Russia categorically denies that it is a party to the conflict. Any decision against myself, of course, Russia will veto. In addition, note that the right of veto or is it all or no one. We are far from illusions that in the current realities of the veto will be able to cancel at all. But we are talking about the limitation of the veto and the strict observance of the requirements of the UN Charter, which govern this question. There are two countries of the permanent five — the UK and France, which, if I’m not mistaken, since 1989, never its veto was not used. And there is a French initiative, but this initiative is voluntary, that members of the five must voluntarily renounce their veto, if we are talking about the horrible mass atrocities like genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But, again, now expect that Russia recognizes that she committed such a crime against Ukraine, is not necessary. But to raise this issue can and should, and we do it. That’s all.

— We understand that the UN gives limited possibilities of Ukraine in the Donbas and Crimea, but still some initiatives in the United Nations could be advanced? Let’s start with the Crimea.

— I also wanted to start from the Crimea. It is not just an idea, it is the decision of the General Assembly resolution from last year, which created a mechanism for monitoring the observance of human rights in the Crimea from the occupation. The Minister of foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin was in Geneva at the opening session of the UN Council on human rights, spoke on the issue, had a meeting with the UN high Commissioner for human rights, and they agreed, what will the UN system in order to implement this resolution. The first step is the admission of UN observers in the area of human rights on the territory of Crimea. If Russia such permission will not, and this logic of action can be foreseen, there will be another powerful lever of pressure on Russia for refusing to implement the decision of the General Assembly. Yes, she voted against the resolution, but the resolution is approved, and it can be ignored. This is the first step.

Second. If we talk about the future role of the UN in the situation in the Donbass, I think that we should not sit idly by and continue to be active. Some believe that the establishment of a peacekeeping mission — it is a utopia. I do not totally agree with. It looks like utopia, but actually I think that it is possible to achieve some results, if you take, for example, for a model UN presence in Croatia in the early 90s. it is Clear that the then Yugoslavia — is not the Russia of today, and therefore difficult to carry out such Parallels, but from the mechanism, which the UN is involved then, you can take many useful and for Donbass. Of course, opponents of this idea say, “Why do it? Russia will block all”. But if you think so, then you should not have to be elected to the membership of the UN Security Council. If we are here then we have still time before the end of this year certain steps to do, at least to a draft decision was already in the Security Council. If you fail this year, we still have to this issue will be able to return in the future. But still nobody cancelled the decision of the Parliament from 2015 in respect of Donbass, appeal to the Verkhovna Rada and the President to the UN with a request to start such work. This appeal is to the UN, now our job is to prescribe project, a solution is possible that Russia will not be able to block. It is necessary to start the process. And the first step is to be opening the support office. This will help us to keep our issue in focus of the Security Council, including and after we leave this body.

— In a recent interview, Mr. Klimkin said that the Ukrainian diplomacy attempts to use another format instead of “channel”, if it is timely and appropriate. Don’t speak about these formats publicly at the official level, but still, as you can use in this case, the UN?

— This is what I said in answering your previous question. It is clear that the Security Council is France a permanent member, which is also a member of the “Norman Quartet.” Is the position of Germany, which is not a member of the Security Council but is a member of the UN and is included in the “channel group”. I understand that this work is already in progress, it is necessary to them to agree on joint action algorithm — first to discuss this question in the “channel format” to see the reaction of the Russian Federation and then move to concrete actions in the framework of the Security Council or in a broader sense, the UN is probably connecting Germany. There is another format, which is now little to say. In December 2015 I talked about the fact that you could try in the UN to create the so-called “group of friends of Ukraine”. Such cases were in the past, there was a group of friends of Georgia, which, incidentally, greatly helped the Security Council at a time when it was the UN presence in Abkhazia. This group could include Germany itself, or Poland, or the Baltic States, and generally any country that Ukraine is ready to genuinely help. But I think all these conversations need to start particularly in the “Normandy format”, and then proceed.

You noted the position of the new US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley. Please describe a bit more your impressions of her work and expectations of how things will behave to the UN.

— It is perhaps the first of the new American administration has made quite strong statements regarding the Ukraine, Russia, the Crimean problem. It happened in the framework of the UN Security Council. I’m with her, met several times, my impression is: this is a very experienced politician, and this compensates for the fact that she still does not have a profound UN experience, which she cannot have because such things are studied over the years. But I am absolutely sure that she very quickly learns all of these issues, having a strong team of advisers and consultants (after all, American diplomacy a very serious and skilled). First, her statements indicate that she very quickly entered the topic, she is very sincere, positive, she sees that telling her colleagues, including me. And I feel that its effectiveness is on the increase. I think we have a very powerful person who will constantly transmit very powerful signals in the framework of the UN.

— We can say that the US had not expected the decrease for the UN? Since these statements were made at official level and in the media, we can say that they were fakes, or at least premature?

You know I don’t have complete information, what is the status of this issue. I heard that it is being discussed in the US state Department, in Congress, probably it will take some time. By the way, we talked about this with Nikki Haley, and I fully agreed with her: there’s a new UN Secretary-General, which has very big plans regarding reforms, primarily internal, that is, the reduction in UN bureaucracy, improving the quality of the documents prepared by the Secretariat of the United Nations. To be Frank, some of the documents submitted for consideration by the Security Council is far from ideal, and they are trained people who get paid from the money that Ukraine and other member States pay to the UN budget. These people must work for member States, but sometimes I get the impression that the member States exist in order to pay the UN bureaucracy, which prints from year to year the same reports that are not interesting. The new Secretary General, antónio Guterres, wants to fix it all. And here to a certain extent the reduction of the contribution the US can help him, because, in accordance with the management system of the UN, to fire a person almost impossible, even if he does nothing. The easiest option is reduce the post. So, if the United States and cut in some sectors contributions, it will only help the new Secretary-General firmly lead the line. The same applies to UN peacekeeping operations, involving approximately 140,000 military and civilian. I’m not talking about the military, it’s soldiers, but in some UN peacekeeping operations are very overstaffed civil, I saw it on your experience. During our membership of the Security Council, I made several visits to Africa and watched what was going on inside those missions, people sometimes do not understand what they are there to do.

— In your opinion, if conventionally speaking, how much interest the state UN inflated as of now?

It’s difficult to talk about the whole system because I have not seen. But I think that about a third can be reduced. It is, perhaps, subjective opinion, but I think that I, if I am mistaken, it is not much.

— Now significantly worsened the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. What the UN can do for this country?

— Now at all on hearing the question about the possibility of imposing arms embargo against South Sudan as government troops and opposition, and the various gangs using the weapons that they have virtually destroyed the civilian population. In fact, the country already not the first year there is a civil war. And therefore, there is an opinion — unfortunately, it is not shared by all members of the Security Council — it is necessary to introduce arms embargo. You can enter individual sanctions against some politicians of southern Sudan that could help stop this internal conflict. We even had attempts of vote at the end of last year, but the resolution on the embargo have not typed a necessary majority of votes. The question is not on the agenda of the day, I think that in the course of this year we still come back to it. The peacekeeping operation there already exists, though perhaps not fully effective. But the UN peacekeepers in South Sudan doing what I can. It is not the people, and in the mandate that they have.

— What do you think about the words of a previous US Ambassador to the UN Samantha power, Vitaly Churkin about in her column for The New York Times?

— You know, with this we can agree or disagree, Samantha Power is an experienced politician, she has the right to their own opinion.

— It is quite clear.

I read not only the review of MS Power, and response, especially in our social networks. My personal opinion — everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And, by the way, similar comments were heard from the other colleagues in the Security Council, they are longer knew Churkin, they worked with him longer.

— Then a provocative question: could Churkin to become your friend, if you, for example, represented Belarus or the United States, he became a friend actually for MS Power?

— Know the concept of friendship is slightly different. What Samantha Power called Vitaly Churkin friend, this is not how I understand friendship. This man, who incidentally, I knew a long time ago, although it was not such a close acquaintance. So to speak, by its nature it my friend would never, even if it were any other country, but it is a question of personality.

Let’s talk a little bit about the role of diplomacy as such. Is it appropriate to justify diplomat who follows the instructions of the government? Comparing, say, with bleach Goebbels, while he was a career diplomat. Proportionate liability to the diplomat, who consciously makes the choice to run errands, covering the war crimes of their country?

— I will say again what has already been said, to any public service, and the diplomatic representative it also applies if you do not agree with the instructions that receive, you have the right to resign. Mr. Churkin conscientiously perform their functions and responsibilities in the UN, representing the Russian Federation, and nothing else from him, at least I, never expected. Another thing that you can just read the speech, downcast eyes, and can we add some spark.

— How did Mr. Churkin.

And that’s what he very cleverly did, when it came to Ukraine. This is something I could never understand where he got that personal with a huge minus in relation to our state. I don’t think ever from Ukraine, he had something bad. Here it is, perhaps, was a red line that he went voluntarily, and therefore its activity and received the following grades in the middle of our state.

— From ethics to politics. The question for you is this: how much do you agree that the hopes of the Russian side regarding “a great deal” between the US and Russia did not materialize?

— I agree that Russia was, perhaps, a very serious surprise such a change of rhetoric. And I, by the way, again, six months ago, said one thing pre-election rhetoric, and another thing — the real deal. And when the new American officials, who began to engage the Russian question, read in the media that they never seen before, and saw Russia’s behavior then and now, many of them, I think, the opinion has changed greatly. Yes, the whole world is interested in the fact that the US and Russia has established normal relations. You know, in the end it might would help in resolving the situation around the Russian aggression against Ukraine. But, alas, no one better than the Ukrainians do not understand what the Russian Federation. And reason to hope that suddenly, for a day or for a month will change their entire psychology and they will be different, however. And so, I think that the awareness of the real situation very quickly encourages American politicians to give an adequate assessment of Russia’s role in the world. I’m not saying that I want, and for me it is definitely not a positive that the US and Russia were enemies, because this would harm others. But, unfortunately, we have to admit that today the reason to establish trust and normal relations between the US and Russia very little.

— Do you believe in the possibility of constructive cooperation between Americans and Russians in certain areas without a full partnership? For example, in Syria or other issues?

— On Syria, I don’t believe I’m saying this for more than a year. Yes, there are areas where there is common interest. The fight against terrorism is the most popular topic, but it cannot be separated from the situation in Syria. If in Syria, they will not find a common language, then this will not be a common language at all in the fight against terrorism. In General, the impression is that Russia uses the rhetoric of terrorism for others, far from combating terrorism objectives. Have a more global topics such as nuclear weapons, here, perhaps, a little more latitude for finding understanding, because both countries I think have a more intimate position than in any other field. But if there is no trust between them, it is hoped that they will agree voluntarily to reduce its nuclear capabilities, make further reductions in offensive weapons, not worth it. It’s a shame really, because it is already obvious to everyone that because of the actions of Russia in Europe, its aggression once again we return to the situation that was during the cold war.