The United Nations Security Council on May 20 rejected a Russian request to hold a meeting on a new language law in Ukraine.
Russia managed to garner only four votes – from China, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, and the Dominican Republic – out of the nine it needed from the 15-member council.
The United States and five other countries – France, Germany, Britain, Belgium and Poland – voted against and four other countries –
Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kuwait and Peru – abstained.
The vote was held on the same day that Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was sworn in.
Jonathan Cohen, the acting U.S. ambassador, called Moscow’s request “a clear attempt by Russia to distract from the peaceful, democratic transfer of power happening today in Ukraine.”
France’s ambassador to the U.N., Francois Delattre, told the council ahead of the vote that the Russian move was “not intended to have a constructive discussion” but to “put the new president of Ukraine in the worst light.”
Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed the law in April.
Under the new legislation, Ukrainian-language TV and radio programming is increased and all citizens have the obligation to learn Ukrainian, which becomes compulsory for civil servants, doctors, teachers and lawyers, under the threat of fines.
Russian, which is also widely spoken in the country, is permitted in personal communications.
Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said that the Russian language was being “pushed out” of Ukraine and accused the council of “censorship.”
He said that the vote to refuse the meeting was “a blatant demonstration of double standards” by members who approved other meetings.
Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko said it was “not a coincidence” that Russia had asked for the council to meet on the day of Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration.
President Zelensky said after his inauguration that his main goal was to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.
Russia seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and fomented unrest in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict between government forces and Moscow-backed separatists has killed some 13,000 people and continues despite a ceasefire and peace deal known as the Minsk accords.
Moscow’s attempt “to send a very powerful message to the new leader from the Security Council” ended up instead being a message for Russia, Ambassador Yelchenko said.
With reporting by AP and AFP.
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