The United Nations General Assembly has voted to condemn Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four partially occupied regions in Ukraine and urged countries not to recognise the move.
In Wednesday’s vote, three-quarters of the 193-member General Assembly — 143 countries — backed a resolution that also reaffirmed the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
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“It’s amazing,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told reporters after the vote, as he stood next to the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield who said the result showed Russia could not intimidate the world.
Four countries joined Russia in voting against the resolution – Belarus, Nicaragua, North Korea, and Syria. Another 35 countries abstained from the vote, including China, India, Pakistan and South Africa. The rest did not vote.
Moscow in September proclaimed its annexation of four partially occupied regions in Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia – after staging what it called referendums. Ukraine and its allies have denounced the votes as illegal and coercive.
The General Assembly vote followed a veto by Russia last month of a similar resolution in the 15-member Security Council.
The result is the strongest rebuke to Russia from the General Assembly of the four resolutions it has approved since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the General Assembly ahead of the vote that the resolution was “politicised and openly provocative”, adding that it “could destroy any and all efforts in favour of a diplomatic solution to the crisis”.
The UN move echoes what happened in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. At the time, the General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring the referendum invalid with 100 votes in favour, 11 against and 58 formal abstentions.
China abstained on Wednesday because it did not believe the resolution will be helpful, China’s Deputy UN Ambassador Geng Shuang said.
“Any action taken by the General Assembly should be conducive to the de-escalation of the situation, to be conducive to the early resumption of dialogue and should be conducive to the promotion of a political solution to this crisis,” he said.
The US and other Western countries lobbied ahead of Wednesday’s vote, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken convening a virtual meeting on Tuesday with diplomats from more than 100 countries.
They won dozens more votes than compared with the 2014 result and improved on the 141 countries who voted to denounce Russia and demand it withdraw its troops from Ukraine within a week of its February 24 invasion.