Flagged! Russia objects to Kosovo background at UN video conference

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A UN Security Council virtual meeting was paused in order to resolve a disagreement about whether Kosovo's flag could appear behind the country's foreign minister during the video conference

A United Nations Security Council meeting on Kosovo was temporarily suspended Tuesday after Russia objected to the partially recognized country's flag appearing behind Pristina's foreign minister during the video conference.

It was the first time such a complaint had halted a discussion at the UN since meetings became mostly virtual following the outbreak of coronavirus last spring.

"Eight of the 15 members of the Security Council do not recognize Kosovo as a country," said Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, Dmitry Polyanskiy, requesting the flag be moved.

He clarified that Russia did not object to Kosovo's Donika Gervalla speaking, as she is customarily allowed to do -- just the flag irked him.

A British diplomat retorted that Security Council video conferences are not formal meetings and that Kosovo's flag had appeared behind its representative during the last session.

The meeting's chairman, Vietnam's ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, suspended the session for closed-door consultations about how to resolve the disagreement.

The public meeting resumed three quarters of an hour later, with the Vietnamese stressing that the backgrounds of virtual meetings should not disrupt the sessions and that the flag could stay.

Gervalla later held her briefing with the emblem behind her. Polyanskiy was furious, denouncing what he called a "lack of respect."

The UN's highest body has mainly held video conferences throughout the pandemic.

During physical sessions in its traditional room at the UN headquarters in New York, representatives speak without their country's flags appearing alongside them.

The majority ethnically Albanian Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia and Russia are yet to recognize it as an independent country.

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