Russia on Saturday took over the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, the international body that is primarily responsible "for the maintenance of international peace and security," according to the UN charter.
The presidency of the council rotates among its 15 members every month, and April 1 marked the beginning of Russia's turn in charge — and its first time leading the council since February 2022, when the country invaded Ukraine.
It comes weeks after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of war crimes.
Several prominent political figures from the U.S. and Europe slammed the idea of a Russian presidency at the Security Council.
"It seems like the worst April Fools’ joke in history," read an opinion column in Time written by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, president of the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute; U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.); and Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to Russia.
The trio called on the U.S. and other permanent members of the Security Council — France and the U.K. — to use their veto power to deny Russia the presidency.
In a separate piece for Time, Sonnenfeld and Sergiy Kyslytsya, the permanent representative of Ukraine to the UN, looked back to the last time Russia ran the council.
The presidency, they wrote, "carries very real institutional power within the U.N.," chairing all discussions and controlling the agenda.
"Back then, Russia sought to exploit the Security Council to confuse and mislead the world of its real intentions, and Russia’s devious machinations were aimed at impeding international support for Ukraine," they wrote.
Kyslytsya also tweeted out a countdown leading up to when Russia chairs the Security Council.
On Twitter, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba called it a "bad joke."
"Russia has usurped its seat; it’s waging a colonial war; its leader is a war criminal wanted by the ICC for kidnapping children," Kuleba tweeted.
And in Politico EU, Colombe Cahen-Salvador, the co-founder of the global grassroots movement Atlas, asked: "Can a war criminal head the United Nations Security Council?" She called for at least seven of the 15 Security Council member countries to boycott the body during April.
The View From Russia
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who walked out of a Security Council meeting last year as Russia was criticized over its actions in Ukraine, is set to be in charge of the panel.
The ministry said Thursday that Russia "will do its utmost to ensure this body’s efficient operation in the interests of finding political and diplomatic solutions to acute crises and maintaining global stability."