Russia Has Illegally Gained UN Security Council Seat. It Should Be Fixed

Tuesday, 8 February 2022 — , European Pravda

The world used to see Russian Federation sitting at UN Security Council (UNSC) meetings. The world used to be concerned that Russia votes (and imposes veto) on decisions related to its invasion of Ukraine.

The problem goes much deeper. There is a doubt that Russia is a member of the United Nations at all.

There are no public records confirming Russia's accession to the UN, and the UN Secretariat refuses to disclose "secret" documents in this regard. The UN Statute says the permanent member seat if the Security Council belongs to the Soviet Union. In 1991, trying to secure Russia's nuclear and military capabilities, the UNSC decided to turn a blind eye to violations of the organization's Charter and allowed Russia to sit at the table.

European Pravda spoke with Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's envoy to the UN. Below we publish his direct quotes about how this happened and the way out.

How Russia found itself in the UN

The UN Charter was signed in June 1945 at the so-called "San Francisco Conference", where 50 founding states established the United Nations. At this document, there are signatures of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian SSR, the Belorussian SSR – and no signature of the RSFSR, i.e. Soviet Russia, despite at that time there was a separate Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia as a republic member of the Soviet Union.

They could have participated in the process - but they did not.

On December 21, 1991, the leaders of the former Soviet republics at a meeting in Almaty decided that the Union would cease to exist on December 24. On that day, the flag of the Soviet Union was removed from the UN building as well as from Kremlin and other locations.

Coincidentally, in December 1991, the Soviet Union was the presiding country in the UN Security Council. The last USSR ambassador to the UN was Julius Vorontsov.

Imagine: December 24, all Western diplomats are ready to celebrate Christmas.

At the end of this meeting, Ambassador Vorontsov informed other members of the UN Security Council that the UN Secretariat had received a letter from Russian President Boris Yeltsin stating that Russia intended to be the USSR's successor in the UN and on the Security Council.

Concluding the meeting, he adds: from now I'm not the ambassador of the Soviet Union, but the Russian Federation.

Meanwhile, the UN Charter provides a straightforward procedure for admission of new states to the UN and their membership in the Security Council. Russia is the only country in the world that bypassed this procedure.

Russia is not a member of the UN Security Council.

Russia says it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It's a special status that gives the right to veto any Security Council decision.

But the UN Charter explicitly names all UNSC permanent members: China, France, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States. That's not a mistake: the Charter says that the Soviet Union still exists. But the key is that Russia is not mentioned there.

However, for 30 years, some people have been sitting in the hall, putting a sign "Russia" in front of them, and pretending to be a member of the UN Security Council!

And everyone around thinks it's okay. But it is not.

Why don't we amend the Charter to fix this mess?

There is a procedure for amendment: it requires a vote in Security Council, then in the General Assembly, and then the changes must be ratified by the parliaments of at least two-thirds of the UN member states. There are currently 193 countries in the UN, so at least 129 states must support Russia's permanent membership in the Security Council.

However, only a UN member state can be a member of the Security Council. But is Russia a UN member?

How other states became members of the UN

Article 4 of the Charter states that any peaceful state can become a member of the UN. Being peaceful is a requirement.

And the UN decision on accession is made by the General Assembly based on the recommendation of the Security Council. This was fulfilled for every other state... except Russia.

For example, Czechoslovakia, which ceased to exist in 1992 (like the USSR), split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Both countries have gone through applying for membership, consideration in the Security Council, the General Assembly, etc.

Another example is the Socialistic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, one of the founding members of the United Nations, as was the USSR. In the early 1990s, the federation collapsed, and several new states emerged (Slovenia, Croatia, etc.), which also applied and joined the UN. Belgrade became the capital of the Federal Republic of Serbia. The name is similar, but legally it was a new state - just like Russia after the collapse of the USSR.


Serbia wanted to declare itself the successor to the Yugoslav federation - just as Russia did. Her request was considered by the UN Security Council in January 1992, a few weeks after the Russian ambassador announced that he was taking the post of USSR ambassador. And then all members of the Security Council, and with them, Russia, replied: "No, you cannot just declare yourself a successor, please go through the whole procedure."

In the end, Belgrade, though unwilling, was forced to do so, and became a member of the United Nations only in 2000.

Therefore Russia should also go through this procedure and only then raise the question of its membership in the Security Council. And I would be very interested to see the debate in the world's parliaments about whether Russia is a "peaceful country."

However, I think this procedure will never start.

Why was Russia allowed to break the fundamental rules?

Remember what was happening in the world in 1991. The Soviet Union is unexpectedly vanishing, and the world is in panic. What to do with the Union's nuclear and conventional military capabilities? Who will be responsible for everything? Who will control it?

And here comes Russia, which says: we are responsible for everything. We guarantee that nuclear weapons will stay with us that conventional weapons will not be sold to terrorist groups.

At the time, Yeltsin is leading Russia.

I remember the UN Security Council summit that took place in 1992, and what Yeltsin said there was very reassuring. He said that Russia no longer considered human rights violations as an internal affair of an individual state – nothing similar to the Russia we see today.

Over the years, everyone has become accustomed to Russia sitting in the Security Council and the General Assembly Hall. And Ukraine contributed to this.

We share the responsibility for this because we have turned a blind eye to it for many years.

The UN is hiding documents. 

For 30 years, no one has been answering questions about the grounds on which Russia is sitting in the UN hall, let alone the Security Council.

To solve the problem, first, we must explore it. Legal analysis of documents available at the UN Secretariat is required.

And here we have a problem.

Even before I came here as an ambassador, our mission staff went to the archives of the UN Secretariat. And what happened there is worthy of a movie.

Our diplomats arrive and say: "Give us the file related to Russia's membership in the UN." Secretariat staff pulls out a box and disassembles the documents in front of them: "You can see this one, but not that one; it's classified."

But who made a decision that documents about Russia are secret? Nobody knows!

I did not see any document proving that vote about Russia's membership has ever taken place in either the UNSC or the UN General Assembly.

And I understand why they are afraid of the truth. It's because that would raise the question: what have we been doing all these years? And what to do with the decisions made with the participation of the Russian Federation? What about those decisions Russia vetoed?

Everyone says that there are so-called "customary norms" in international law doctrine, and the Russian Federation has become a permanent member of the UN Security Council for 30 years under such a "customary norm."

Does it not matter that the UN Charter lays out who a permanent member of the Security Council is?

What will Ukraine do?

Solving this issue is not my priority as Ukraine's ambassador to the UN.

My priority is the ongoing negotiations related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine. But I will keep asking the UN: let's admit that in 1991 they were wrong. Let's just open the documents.

This question is existential and decisive for the whole system of world security.

It determines the way the UN develops. It determines whether the UN intends to implement its Charter. Because when it comes to the second option, we confess there is no rules-based global security system on Earth.

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