NEW YORK: Loud applause resounded in the UN General Assembly Hall as member states overwhelmingly voted to adopt a resolution that condemned Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine” and called on Moscow to stop the war and withdraw its troops.
The resolution was passed in a rare emergency session called for after a similar resolution was shot down at the Security Council by a Russian veto. It is a so-called “Uniting for Peace” resolution, which allows a deadlocked council to refer the situation in question to the General Assembly.
This is only the 11th emergency session called for by the security council in the history of the UN. The last one was held on Israel in 1982.
Although the resolution is not legally binding, it did achieve its goal of increasing Russia’s isolation on the world stage. It was backed by 141 of the GA’s 193 members, with 35 abstaining from the vote, including China and Iran. Four countries joined Russia in voting against it — Syria, North Korea, Eritrea and Belarus.
The vote was underway while the strategic city of Kherson was being pummeled by Russian airstrikes, with explosions continuing to rock Kyiv, forcing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to flee.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that Wednesday’s resolution reflected a central truth: “The world wants an end to the tremendous human suffering in Ukraine.
“The message of the General Assembly is loud and clear: End hostilities in Ukraine now. Silence the guns now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy now. ”
The territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine must be respected in line with the UN, Guterres said, adding: “We don’t have a moment to lose. The brutal effects of the conflict are plain to see. But as bad as the situation is for the people in Ukraine right now, it threatens to get much, much worse. The ticking clock is a time bomb.”
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the assembly before the vote that Russia was preparing to intensify its offensive and urged member states to hold it accountable for its violations of international law, citing the use of cluster munitions and vacuum bombs by Russian troops, which are banned weapons under international law.
“Vote yes if you believe UN member states — including your own — have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. Vote yes if you believe Russia should be held to account for its actions,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denied Moscow was shelling civilians, warning that the adoption of the resolution could fuel further violence and accusing Western Governments of pressuring the assembly to pass the resolution.
Charging that Ukrainian forces were using civilians as human shields and deploying heavy arms in residential areas, Nebenzia again said that Russia’s “military operation” aimed to end so-called “neo-Nazi” attacks on civilians in the breakaway Kremlin-backed regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
On Monday, Nebenzia said that the war would end when the “demilitarization” and the “denazification” of Ukraine were complete.
In explaining Beijing’s abstention from the vote, China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said that the resolution did not “take full consideration of the history and complexity of the current crisis. It does not highlight the importance of the principle of indivisible security, or the urgency of promoting political settlement and stepping up diplomatic efforts.”
Olof Skoog, head of the delegation of the EU to the UN, said the resolution was not just about Ukraine and Europe but about “defending an international order based on rules we have all signed up to.
“Russia stands increasingly alone. The EU and the world stands with the Ukrainian people,” Skoog said.
Although she supported the resolution, Emirati UN envoy Lana Nusseibeh said that the censure was not enough, adding that her country was deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine, and calling on fellow member states to exercise “our collective responsibility toward exhausting all efforts and diplomatic efforts to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
“This is a time to summon our reserve of wisdom and experience to guide the way forward,” Nusseibeh said.
She added: “We need to shift our mindset from conflict management to conflict resolution. Let this crisis be the wake-up call. We need to galvanize UN efforts to promote dialogue and help those desperately in need.”
The majority of Arab countries also voted for the resolution citing commitment to the principles of the UN Charter, especially the peaceful resolution of disputes and the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states.
Only Syria voted against, with the Damascus envoy saying that the resolution aimed at defaming Russia, accusing the “hegemonic” policies of the West of “prolonging crises, promulgating anarchy, opting for double standards and imposing unilateral sanctions.”