The United Nations Security Council on Monday rejected a request by Russia to hold a meeting on the recently adopted Ukrainian language law, which Moscow said was contrary to commitments made in the Minsk Accords.
The agenda of the proposed meeting failed to obtain the nine votes required for it to be held. That’s because only five council members supported the request, while six others opposed and four abstained.
Tempers flying @UN Security Council on Ukraine: “You are not really interested in the Ukrainian people at all,” says Russia Ambassador Nebenzia ~ calls it “double standards @RussiaUN @USUN @franceonu @BelgiumUN @UKUN_NewYork @GermanyUN pic.twitter.com/MZE0vI7SHc
— Pamela Falk (@PamelaFalk) May 20, 2019
“You are not really interested in the Ukrainian people,” said Vasily Nebenzya, Russian ambassador to the UN, suggesting that most of the Ukrainian population would be harmed by the measure, since many have Russian as their primary language.
On Wednesday, the then President of Ukraine, Pyotr Poroshenko, signed a new legislation “ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as a state language,” which provides that Ukrainian be used in almost all walks of life.
The law in question was passed by parliament in late April, but the opposition demanded that it be repealed, citing procedural issues and constitutional violations.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre told the council ahead of the vote that the Russian call for the meeting was “not intended to have a constructive discussion” but to “put the new president of Ukraine in the worst light.”
Five countries voted in favor of holding the meeting — China, Russia, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and the Dominican Republic — while five EU members — Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Belgium — and the United States voted against.
Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kuwait and Peru abstained.
The new law increases Ukrainian-language television and radio programming and obliges all citizens to speak Ukrainian, making it mandatory for civil servants, doctors, teachers and lawyers under the threat of fines.
Despite the decision to block the meeting, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia took to the floor to denounce that the Russian language was being “pushed out” of Ukraine and accused the council of “censorship”.
Russia argued that the language law was in violation of the so-called Minsk agreements, signed in 2014 to end the conflict in east Ukraine.
In his inaugural speech, Zelensky, a comedian who at 41, became Ukraine’s youngest post-Soviet president, called for a ceasefire and a prisoner swap to pave the way to talks.