The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution calling for Russia to be held accountable for violating international law by invading Ukraine. The consequences recommended included paying reparations for the damage and loss of life during the war.
The resolution passed on Monday was supported by 94 of the assembly’s 193 members. It said Russia, which invaded its neighbour in February, “must bear the legal consequences of all of its internationally wrongful acts, including making reparation for the injury, including any damage, caused by such acts”.
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Fourteen countries voted against the resolution, including Russia, China and Iran while 73 abstained, including Brazil, India and South Africa. Not all member states voted.
It was the lowest level of support of the five Ukraine-related resolutions adopted by the General Assembly since Russia’s February 24 invasion.
The resolution recognises the need to establish “an international mechanism for reparation for damage, loss or injury”.
It recommends the assembly’s member nations, in cooperation with Ukraine, create “an international register” to document claims and information on damage, loss or injury to Ukrainians and the government caused by Russia.
The resolution followed Russia’s withdrawal from the city of Kherson after months of occupation. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy travelled to the southeastern city on Monday and accused Russian forces of war crimes throughout the region.
A UN commission of inquiry said in late September that it had found an array of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, including sexual and gender-related acts of violence by some Russian soldiers.
Russia’s veto power in the 15-member Security Council has blocked the UN’s most powerful body from taking any action since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion. But there are no vetoes in the General Assembly, which previously adopted four resolutions criticising Russia’s invasion.
‘Sense of justice’
Kristen Saloomey, Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the UN, said Russia had argued that the Security Council, not the General Assembly, was the place to make these decisions while accusing western countries of double standards.
“The countries of the West never considered reparations as a way of atoning for their own sins,” Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said.
He said the provisions of the resolution are “legally null and void” as he urged countries to vote against it.
“The West is trying to draw out and worsen the conflict and plans to use Russian money for it,” Nebenzia said.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said ahead of the vote that, “Russia prefers impunity to accountability and when it comes to the process to the Security Council, it only knows two things, lies and veto.”
He said Russia has targeted everything from factories to residential buildings and hospitals in Ukraine.
“Ukraine will have the daunting task of rebuilding the country and recovering from this war, but that recovery will never be complete without a sense of justice for the victims of the Russian war,” Kyslytsya said. “It is time to hold Russia accountable.”
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they do reflect world opinion and have demonstrated widespread opposition to Russia’s military action.
“It will take a broad international effort to support Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction in order to build a safe and prosperous future for the Ukrainian people,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the assembly.
“But only one country, Russia, is responsible for the damage to Ukraine, and it is absolutely right, as this resolution sets out, that Russia pay for that damage.”