Russia’s U.N. Envoy Storms Out of Security Council Meeting

The UN Security Council met on Monday, June 6, to discuss global issues, including Russia’s role in the fallout of the conflict in Ukraine. During this meeting, European Council President Charles Michel accused Russia of various atrocities, including war crimes, sexual violence, and fueling a global food crisis. As a result, Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia stormed out of the meeting in protest.

Michel denounced the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine, calling their use of sexual violence “a tactic of torture, terror, and repression”; Nebenzia “categorically refuted” these accusations. After leaving the meeting, he stated to reporters that “the lies that Charles Michel came here to distribute” made him unable to tolerate the rest of the meeting. As Nebenzia left the room, Michel called after him: “You may leave the room, maybe it’s easier not to listen to the truth.” In his speech, Michel did not mince words, stating to the 15-member body that “let’s be honest, the Kremlin is using food supplies as a stealth missile against developing countries… Russia is solely responsible for this food crisis.”

Russia’s unwillingness to admit fault and cooperate with international institutions is discouraging but not surprising. Nebenzia’s disregard for established institutional norms follows the pattern that Russia has been following throughout the duration of its invasion of Ukraine. This latest outburst reinforces that Moscow is unlikely to engage with the UN in any meaningful way and that international action toward Russia must go beyond institutional condemnation. The UN’s capacity for effective retaliation to Russia’s violence and atrocities is regrettably minimal, and what it instead ought to do is continue to call upon the international community to take stronger action, such as continued sanctions. 

Since their invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russia’s aggression has fueled a global food crisis as prices for grains, fuel, cooking oil, and fertilizer have increased dramatically. Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of the global wheat supply, which is heavily impacting availability. 

Action to address this global food crisis will be difficult without any degree of Russian cooperation, which the UN clearly is having difficulty encouraging. Global action against Russia and negotiation with greater stakes must continue to discourage the continuation of violence and promote food supply. In the meantime, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is attempting to broker a deal to resume Ukrainian and Russian food exports, hopefully alleviating some of the shortages.