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At UN, Russia's Day Ranges from Georgia to Espresso, N. Korea Praise, No Sri Lanka

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 -- Russia' foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met Monday morning with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, then in the afternoon with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Austria. In between he chaired the Security Council's meeting on the Middle East and held a short press conference at which he took only seven questions. One was on Sri Lanka: why has Russia fought to keep the carnage there off the Council's formal agenda? Lavrov answered that Russia is of course concerned as civilian casualties -- but only on in Sri Lanka, also Afghanistan and now Pakistan's Swat Valley. He said that civilian casualties should not be politicized.

   Some remember back in August, when Russia called the casualties of Georgia in South Ossetia to be victims of war crimes. There was a Security Council meeting, requested by Russia, which began at 1 a.m.. Inner City Press was present and covered it. But in the face of over 400 civilians deaths over the weekend in Sri Lanka, not a single Council meeting. In another context on Monday, Lavrov decried the use of violence to solve political problems.

   Lavrov was accompanied by the Russian Mission's previously spokeswoman, Maria Zarakhova. Before an open microphone, she said that they had recently visited North Korea. It is going better there, she said. The people have cell phones and she'd even seen a Hummer vehicle. That's why the last round of sanctions targeted luxury goods, she said. There improvements are less visible to those seeking to flee into China.

   Monday after the Council's lunch, the Turkish delegation went into the Security Council. Lavrov followed, telling a security officer that “they have good coffee, please bring two cups of espresso, one for me and one for the Turkish minister.” A well known Arab League staffer, who will leave unnamed for now, is known to have fought to keep good coffee in the Council, when Lavrov was Russia's Ambassador. Using an espresso machine donated by Mexico, he ordered roasted beans, wholesale from Chicago. Others speak of the small bar by the Council chamber, always open during Lavrov's time, and how he saved the job of the bartender. Those were the days, many people say. Not Tamils, at least not recently.

Russia's Lavrov looms over Ban Ki-moon

   Throughout Monday, the highest ranking Russian UN official in New York, Dmitri Titov, squired Lavrov around. First to the elevator up to meet with Ban Ki-moon. (Titov's boss Alain Le Roy made a point that it was him, and not Titov, who attended the meeting with Ban.) Then Titov went in and out of the Council, during Lavrov's bilateral meetings, at 2:52 and 3:14 p.m.. Finally, the UN Secretary provided a corrected read-out of the morning's meeting, which we run in corrected form:

Subject: Your question at noon (SG-Lavrov readout)

To: Inner City Press

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply/NY/UNO

Date: 05/11/2009

The Secretary-General (SG) met with the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation this morning and had a constructive meeting. They spoke about the Middle East, the forthcoming SG's debate to the Security Council on [the Middle East], the SG's fourteenth report on the Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Kosovo.

   One wag joked that Russia, for its month atop the Council, wanted an issue which does not directly impact its interests. It could have made Georgia the topic, but time is on its side. The trend is the opposite on Kosovo but nothing, it seems, can stop that. And so, the Middle East, and a Presidential Statement which an OIC Ambassador told Inner City Press is very weak, “it would have been better to pass nothing, it is intended to publicize a Moscow event that will never happen." We'll see.

  At 3:37 p.m., with an air kiss from Maria Zarakhova and a cursory wave from Lavrov, they were gone, headed back to Moscow. From Russia with love...

  Click here for a new YouTube video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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