UN Security Council to meet on Ukraine as US Senate prepares new sanctions

The UN Security Council is due to meet in public on Monday, at the request of the United States, to discuss the reinforcement of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine as international diplomacy aimed at easing tensions moves towards the world body in New York.

The United States describes the meeting of the 15-member body as a chance for Russia to explain itself, while Russia has signaled that it may try to block it. Nine votes are needed for the meeting to proceed and Washington is “confident” it has enough support.

But aside from all members being given the opportunity to express their views openly, there is unlikely to be any action from the council – even if Russia were to invade Ukraine. A simple statement requires consensus, and Russia could veto any offer for a resolution.

Russia is one of five permanent powers with veto power in the council, along with the United States, France, Britain and China. The Security Council is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. A day after the meeting, Russia is expected to assume the Council’s rotating presidency for February.

The UN Security Council Chamber, pictured in 2017 © Stéphane Lemouton, Swimming Pool/AFP/Archive

“The United States and its allies will use the UN as a political theater where they can publicly shame Russia in the event of war,” said Richard Gowan, UN director at Crisis Group, a think tank.

“I fear this is just one more crisis, like the war in Ethiopia and the Burmese coup, which shows how little influence the UN has in the real world,” he added. .

The US Senate is preparing new sanctions

Russia has massed some 120,000 troops near its neighbor and demanded that the Western defense alliance withdraw its troops and weapons from Eastern Europe and prevent Ukraine, a former Soviet state, from joining the western defense alliance.

US officials said Russia’s military buildup had extended to include supplies to treat victims of any conflict. Across the Ukrainian border, residents trained as army reservists as the government rushed to prepare.

Moscow denies any invasion plans but said on Sunday it would ask NATO to clarify whether it intended to implement key security commitments, after earlier saying the NATO response alliance to his demands did not go far enough.

“If they don’t intend to, then they should explain why,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state television. “This will be a key question in determining our future proposals.”

In a sign of the tensions, Canada said on Sunday it was temporarily withdrawing non-essential staff from its embassy in Ukraine, but added that the embassy would remain open.

The United States, which has threatened Russia with major new sanctions if it invades Ukraine, said it was awaiting a response from Moscow. He says NATO will not withdraw from Eastern Europe or prevent Ukraine from joining, but he is ready to discuss topics such as arms control and security measures. confidence.

U.S. senators are close to agreeing sanctions legislation, the two lead lawmakers working on the bill said on Sunday. The measures include targeting the most important Russian banks and Russian sovereign debt as well as offering more deadly assistance to Ukraine.

Some of the sanctions in the bill could take effect before any invasion takes place because of what Russia has already done, said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He spoke about cyberattacks against Ukraine, false flag operations and efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government from within.

Washington has spent weeks trying to strike a deal with its European partners on a tough sanctions package, but the issue is divisive, with Germany calling for “caution”.

The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies and any interruption would worsen an existing energy crisis caused by a shortage.

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“We are concerned about the energy situation in Europe as it demonstrates the vulnerability of being too dependent on a single supplier of natural gas and that is why NATO allies agree that we need to work and focus on supply diversification,” said the NATO Secretary General. says Jens Stoltenberg.

London considers broader sanctions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told international reporters on Friday that there had been no further escalation in tensions with Russia. “We don’t need to panic,” he said.

On Sunday, a White House official said the Biden administration understood the predicament Zelenskiy found himself in and the pressure he was under.

“At the same time, he’s minimizing the risk of invasion, he’s asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons to defend against an invasion,” the White House official said. “We think it’s important to be open and upfront about this threat.”

Britain said on Sunday it would expand the scope of its own possible sanctions in legislation this week to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We believe it is very likely that he is seeking to invade Ukraine. That is why we are doing everything we can through deterrence and diplomacy, to urge him to give up,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told BBC television.

Truss, who is due to travel to both Ukraine and Russia in the next two weeks, told Sky News the legislation would allow Britain to hit a wider variety of targets.

Asked if the new powers could include the ability to seize property in London, Truss replied: “Nothing is on the table.”

The Center for American Progress, an American think tank, said Britain would face a challenge in uprooting wealthy Russians with ties to the London Kremlin given the close ties “between Russian money and the Conservative party in power in the United Kingdom, the press and its real estate and financial assets. industry”.

Asked about it, Truss said: “There is a real threat here to freedom and democracy in Europe. And that is more important than short-term economic gains, both for the UK but also for our European allies.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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