On Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously condemned Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four Ukrainian regions and demanded its immediate reversal, reflecting widespread global opposition to the seven-month war and Moscow’s attempt to steal its neighbor’s territory.
The vote in the 193-member international body was 143-5, with 35 abstentions. It was the General Assembly’s strongest resolution in favor of Ukraine and against Russia since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24.
US President Joe Biden remarked in a statement that the decision demonstrated that the world is changing and “is more committed than ever to holding Russia accountable for its crimes.
“It’s a clear message,” he said, that “Russia cannot erase a sovereign state from the map” or “alter borders by force.”
The resolution was developed in response to Russia’s alleged annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions earlier this month. Moscow reacted in response to Kremlin-organized “referendums” that the Ukrainian government and the West condemned as illegitimate votes staged on occupied territory amid bloodshed and disruption.
During two days of statements at the assembly’s resumed emergency special session on Ukraine, speaker after speaker accused Russia of violating basic principles of the United Nations Charter, including respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all UN member nations. Before the vote on Wednesday, supporters of the European Union-mediated deal fought hard.
Before the vote, US envoy Thomas-Greenfield told the assembly that the UN was founded on the principle that “never again would one country be allowed to acquire another’s land by force.”
The number of countries supporting the resolution was a major issue for Western backers of the resolution, and the result exceeded their most optimistic projections.
The General Assembly voted 141-5 with 35 abstentions on March 2 to call for a swift Russian ceasefire, the withdrawal of all forces, and the protection of all civilians. On March 24, it voted 140-5, with 38 abstentions, on a resolution blaming Russia for Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis and calling for an immediate ceasefire and safety for millions of civilians, as well as the homes, schools, and hospitals critical to their survival.
However, on April 7, the assembly voted by a far narrower margin to suspend Russia from the United Nations’ Geneva-based Human Rights Council in response to allegations that Russian soldiers in Ukraine committed rights violations that the US and Ukraine have branded war crimes. The vote was 93 to 24, with 58 abstentions.
In 2014, a resolution recognizing Ukraine’s territorial integrity and declaring the referendum that led to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula unlawful was passed by a vote of 100-11 with 58 abstentions.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf Cooperation Council members, as well as Brazil, were unexpected supporters of the resolution.
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