The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution that ‘demands’ that Russia ‘immediately’ withdraw from Ukraine, in a powerful rebuke to Moscow’s invasion by a vast majority of nations in the world. world.
After more than two days of extraordinary debates that saw the Ukrainian ambassador accuse Russia of genocide, 141 of 193 member states voted for the non-binding resolution.
China was among 35 countries that abstained, while only five Eritrea, North Korea, Syria, Belarus and of course Russia voted against.
The resolution “deplores” the invasion of Ukraine “in the strongest terms” and condemns President Vladimir Putin’s decision to put his nuclear forces on high alert.
The vote had been touted by diplomats as an indicator of democracy in a world where autocracy is on the rise in countries from Myanmar to Venezuela, and came as Putin’s forces stalked Kiev while Terrified Ukrainians fled.
“They have come to deprive Ukraine of the very right to exist,” Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the assembly ahead of the vote.
“It’s already clear that Russia’s goal is not just occupation. It’s genocide.”
Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Moscow pleaded “self-defence” under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
But this has been categorically rejected by Western countries who accuse Moscow of violating Article 2 of the Charter, demanding that UN members refrain from resorting to the threat or use of force to resolve a crisis.
The text of the resolution — led by European countries in coordination with Ukraine — has undergone many changes in recent days.
It no longer “condemns” the invasion as originally planned, but “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine”.
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It also makes it clear that the United Nations “condemns” Putin’s decision to put his nuclear forces on high alert, a move that sparked an immediate outcry from the West.
Almost every speaker in the General Assembly unreservedly condemned the war and the risks of military escalation.
“If the United Nations has a purpose, it is to prevent war,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in her speech on Wednesday.
She accused Russia of “preparing to increase the brutality of its campaign”.
“We have seen videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weapons into Ukraine, which have no place on the battlefield, including cluster munitions and vacuum bombs, which are prohibited by the Geneva,” said Thomas-Greenfield.
However, Russia’s ally Belarus offered a fierce defense against the invasion.
Ambassador Valentin Rybakov called the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia “the worst example of economic and financial terrorism”.
And he followed other Russian allies such as Syria in condemning the “double standards” of Western nations that have invaded countries like Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan in recent decades.
Other speakers expressed fears of a domino effect if Ukraine fell to Russia. Colombia railed against any return to “empire”, while Albania wondered: “Who will be next?”
Of the Arab world, it is Kuwait, itself the victim of an invasion of Iraq in 1990, whose denunciation by Moscow is the most explicit, the rest of the Middle East remaining in the background.
China and India abstain
Japan and New Zealand led Asia’s condemnation, but the continent’s giants — China, India and Pakistan — all abstained. During the debate, Beijing stressed that the world had “nothing to gain” from a new cold war.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Washington targeted Russians working at the United Nations, making accusations of espionage and demanding deportations.
US President Joe Biden claimed in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that Putin had underestimated the response to the invasion.
“He rejected diplomacy efforts … And he thought he could divide us here at home,” Biden said.
“Putin was wrong. We were ready.”