UNITED NATIONS - After using the U.N. to help score a stunning diplomatic coup for Russia on Syria and restore his country’s international influence, President Vladimir Putin is still choosing not to strut his stuff at the General Assembly.
Putin is one of the few major world leaders not in New York this week for the UNGA, despite the platform it would offer him to tout the Kremlin’s resurgence since the U.S. agreed to his proposal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address the assembly on Friday in his stead.
Russia’s permanent seat - and resulting veto power - on the U.N. Security Council has been key to the Kremlin remaining a relevant force internationally and blocking Western-led efforts to resolve the Syrian civil war, much to the chagrin of Western leaders. The United States’ U.N. Ambassador, Samantha Power, said Russia was “holding the Security Council hostage” shortly before Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry struck a deal on Syria. Putin frequently defers to the U.N.’s authority in his remarks on Syria, including in his controversial New York Times op-ed earlier this month.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told BuzzFeed Tuesday that Putin “did not see the need” in attending the UNGA, which he has not visited since 2005, citing a busy work schedule. Putin was more than happy for Lavrov to hammer out negotiations with Security Council members over a resolution on Syria, Peskov added.
Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, said earlier Tuesday that negotiations with the U.S. were “not quite going in the direction they should,” but that Russia still hoped to have a Security Council resolution this week. Russia continues to oppose a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which would automatically introduce sanctions if Syria does not comply.
Putin remains hard at work away from the limelight. He chaired a session of the Collective Security Treaty Organization of six post-Soviet states in Sochi on Monday, opened a thermal power station alongside the president of Finland in the gas-rich Yamalo-Nenets province in Russia’s far north on Tuesday, and is set to speak Wednesday at an Arctic forum there.
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