Ukrainian diplomats urge UN to “stop funding Russian aggression” by buying Russian goods and services

United Nations Ukraine wants the United Nations to stop paying Russia for goods and services. Kyiv’s representatives at the UN headquarters, both past and present, have told the leaders of the world organization buying from Russia are helping to burn down Vladimir Putin’s war.

“When you buy goods and services from Russian companies, you support their war effort, regardless of the amount,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told CBS News on Monday.

The UN has spent at least $ 2.5 billion on Russian goods and services since 2014, when Putin launched his first invasion of Ukraine. In 2020 alone, the last year for which figures are available, UN purchases from Russia totaled $ 272 million. The money buys a wide range of things, from food supplies for humanitarian aid, to planes and the personnel to fly them for peacekeeping missions.

Ukraine’s delegation first called on the UN leadership to “immediately stop all non-essential UN-Russia tendering cooperation” in a letter sent last month.

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Stephane Dujarric, for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the UN responded to that formal letter from the Ukrainian mission by stating that UN procurement was determined “on the basis of best value for money, honesty, integrity and transparency, and effective international competition, “and that other factors were not taken into account.

Dujarric said that these standards for the spending of UN funds were set by the General Assembly of 193 nations, and that changing them required a new resolution of the General Assembly.

“It’s no secret that many of our peacekeeping and logistics aircraft purchases come from the Russian Federation, including some from Ukraine,” Dujarric told CBS News.

Kyslytsya told CBS News that the UN response was “politically unsatisfactory and morally dubious.”

In addition to the request of the current Ukrainian delegation, on Sunday six former Ukrainian diplomats, including the former UN Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs and former ambassadors, sent a letter calling on the UN to stop all purchases from Russia.

“Stop funding Russian aggression through UN business opportunities,” the signatories said in the letter, which was obtained exclusively by CBS News.

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The letter pointed to the General Assembly voice last week to kick Russia out of the UN Human Rights Council, saying it “shows that if there is political will, there is a way to do the right thing.”

Noting the substantial sum that the UN has paid Russia for goods and services since Putin’s invasion in 2014, the letter from former diplomats said: “Against the background of global economic sanctions, such ‘generosity’ is staggering. . “

The letter pointed out that while the European Union is sanctioning Russian aviation over the Ukraine war, “the UN Secretariat continues to process new prices to Russian contractors.”

While Ukraine’s current UN mission did not sign the letter sent over the weekend, CBS News was told that its proposals run parallel to the Ukrainian government’s own efforts to bolster the UN’s confidence in Russian contractors. to reduce.

“This is a smart move,” Richard Gowan, UN director for the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, told CBS News. “Russian companies have made a lot of money from supplying the UN with equipment such as helicopters.”

Another UN expert, Stephen Schlesinger of the Century Foundation, said that if Ukraine’s diplomats – both current and former – could persuade the global body to stop buying Russian goods and services, it would “fit in”. “the series of symbolic rebukes that the UN has already made to Russia, such as its condemnation vote against its invasion of Ukraine in the General Assembly and the action of the Human Rights Council in suspending Russia.”

“I do not expect the tender contracts with Russia to be terribly extensive in any case, but the termination of them is still a blow to Russian pride and its supposed superpower status,” Schlesinger told CBS News.

Gowan said the impact could be more than merely symbolic: “If the UN stops offering Russian companies those contracts, I think it will actually cause Moscow more concrete inconvenience than for the most part symbolic diplomatic movements such as the termination of ‘ and the Human Rights Council, and it is high time that the UN viewed and cleared up some of its procurement practices as a matter of principle.

Dujarric told CBS News that the UN leadership had not yet seen the second letter, sent Sunday from former diplomats, which also called on UN Secretary-General Guterres to visit Kyiv in person.

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