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Russia, accused of war crimes, assumes UN Security Council presidency causing fury in Ukraine

Russia, whose leader is accused of war crimes, took the presidency of the United Nations Security Council on Saturday despite Ukraine urging members to block the move. It has caused fury in Ukraine, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling it an absurd and destructive move, Reuters reported.

It means the Security Council is being led by a nation whose leader is subject to an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes.

Each of the council’s 15 members takes up the presidency for a month, on a rotating pattern. The last time Russia had the presidency was in February 2022 when it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, BBC reported.

In a daily video address, Ukraine President Zelenskyy said, “Unfortunately, we … have some obviously absurd and destructive news” adding that Russian shelling had killed a five-month-old boy on Friday.

“And at the same time, Russia is chairing the UN Security Council. It’s hard to imagine anything that proves more the total bankruptcy of such institutions,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Russia’s presidency “the worst joke ever for April Fool’s Day” and a “stark reminder that something is wrong with the way international security architecture is functioning”.

The presidency rotates alphabetically each month among the 15 members. Although it is largely procedural, the Kremlin and other Russian officials vowed to “exercise all its rights” in the role, according to Reuters.

The International Criminal Court – which is not a UN institution – issued the warrant for Vladimir Putin last month.

Despite Ukraine’s complaints, the United States said it could not block Russia – a permanent council member – from assuming the presidency.

The United States on Thursday urged Russia to “conduct itself professionally” when it assumes the role, saying there were no means to block Moscow from the post.

The other permanent members of the council are the UK, US, France, and China.

The role is mostly procedural, but Moscow’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, told the Russian Tass news agency that he planned to oversee several debates, including one on arms control, BBC reported.

He said he would discuss a “new world order” that, he said, was coming to “replace the unipolar one”.

Wall Street Journal demands immediate release of journalist arrested in Russia on spying charges

The Wall Street Journal on Saturday demanded the immediate release of a Moscow-based reporter, Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on suspicion of spying.

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The FSB said he was involved in collecting “secret information” about a Russian defense company.

“Evan’s case is a vicious affront to a free press, and should spur outrage in all free people and governments throughout the world, the newspaper said in a statement on Twitter.

Will there be a spring counteroffensive?

The Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov, last week, said that a spring counteroffensive could begin as soon as April.

The Ukrainian military starts the season with an influx of powerful weapons. Germany said this week that it had delivered the 18 Leopard 2 tanks it promised to Ukraine. Poland, Canada and Norway have also handed over their pledged Leopard tanks. British Challenger tanks have arrived too, news agency Associated Press reported.

Ukraine’s defense minister has said he’s hopeful Western partners will supply at least two battalions of the German-made Leopard 2s by April. He also expects six or seven battalions of Leopard 1 tanks, with ammunition, from a coalition of countries.

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