It was to be Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s first in- person appearance at a UN Security Council meeting on Moscow’s invasion of his country, and Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia objected to him taking the floor before the 15 council members.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, serving as president of the tense session, responded with a gibe at Moscow, which has long said the invasion does not amount to a war but was a “special military operation”.
“I want to assure our Russian colleagues and everyone here that this is not a special operation by the Albanian presidency,” Rama, known for a piercing sense of humor, said to muted laughter across the room.
“There is a solution for this,” Rama continued. “If you agree, you stop the war and President Zelenskyy will not take the floor,” said Rama, whose country serves as president of the council for September.
Nebenzia went on to say the session was a show and criticized Rama for what he said was a political stance rather than an act of a neutral guardian of procedure.
In seeking to justify its invasion, Moscow has said Ukraine’s ambitions to integrate with the West - including NATO - pose a threat to Russia’s national security.
When given the floor after the back-and-forth, Zelenskyy suggested Russia be stripped of its veto right as one of five permanent members of the post-World War Two UN Security Council as punishment for attacking Ukraine.
Zelenskyy said the only way to a lasting peace was a full withdrawal of Russian troops and restoration of Kyiv’s control over its territory within the 1991 borders following the fall of the Soviet Union.