The United Nations General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four Ukrainian regions and demand its immediate reversal.
The vote was 143-5 with 35 abstentions, a sign of strong global opposition to the seven-month war and Moscow’s attempt to grab its neighbor’s territory.
North Korea, Belarus, Syria and Nicaragua joined Russia in voting against the resolution, while 19 African countries abstained - including South Africa - along with China, India, Pakistan and Cuba.
Among the surprise supporters of Wednesday evening's resolution were the “yes” votes from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as Brazil.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, had appealed to countries to vote against the resolution, denouncing its sponsors as “unscrupulous Western blackmailers.”
Reaction to United Nations vote
Ukraine's United Nations ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, called the vote “amazing" and “a historic moment."
Meanwhile US President Joe Biden said in a statement that the vote demonstrated the world “is more united and more determined than ever to hold Russia accountable for its violations.”
It is “a clear message” that “Russia cannot erase a sovereign state from the map” and it “cannot change borders by force,” said Biden.
The UK's mission to the UN tweeted that "Russia has isolated itself, but Russia alone can stop the suffering. The time to end the war is now."
And France's top diplomat at the UN Nicolas de Rivière said "we will never resign ourselves to a world in which force prevails over law. We will keep defending the UN charter.
The Western-sponsored resolution was a response to Russia’s illegal annexation last month of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Moscow acted following Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” that the Ukrainian government and the West have dismissed as sham votes conducted on occupied land amid warfare and displacement.
During two days of speeches at the assembly's resumed emergency special session on Ukraine speaker after speaker accused Russia of violating key principles of the United Nations Charter — respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all UN member nations.
There was intense lobbying by supporters of the EU-facilitated resolution ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
A key issue for the resolution’s Western backers was how many countries would support it, and the result went beyond their most optimistic expectations.
The more powerful Security Council, whose resolutions are legally binding, has been stymied on taking action on Ukraine because of Russia’s veto power, which it used 29 September to block condemnation of Russia’s attempts to annex Ukrainian territory.
By contrast, the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, has now approved four resolutions criticizing Russia over Ukraine.
Its votes reflect world opinion but are not legally binding.