U.N. Denounces Russia’s Ukraine Invasion

U.N. General Assembly deplores Russian aggression in Ukraine in a lopsided 141-5 vote that underscored Russia’s deepening diplomatic isolation.

By , a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy.
Results of the United Nations’ vote on Russian aggression are projected.
Results of the United Nations’ vote on Russian aggression are projected.
Results of the United Nations’ vote on Russian aggression are projected in an emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City on March 2. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

In an extraordinary session, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly denounced Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, underscoring Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extreme international isolation and demanding the Kremlin immediately cease its military offensive and “immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.”

The 193-member assembly adopted the resolution, deploring “in the strongest terms” Russia’s aggression against Ukraine by a vote of 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions. This capped three-days of public statements during the U.N. General Assembly’s rare special emergency session, highlighting mounting international alarm over Russia’s actions.

Some of Russia’s stalwart allies—such as Cuba, Iran, and Nicaragua—abstained on the vote, whereas Eastern European countries with close ties to Russia—such as Serbia and Hungary—voted in favor of the resolution. Russia’s backers solely amounted to Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria.

In an extraordinary session, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly denounced Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, underscoring Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extreme international isolation and demanding the Kremlin immediately cease its military offensive and “immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.”

The 193-member assembly adopted the resolution, deploring “in the strongest terms” Russia’s aggression against Ukraine by a vote of 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions. This capped three-days of public statements during the U.N. General Assembly’s rare special emergency session, highlighting mounting international alarm over Russia’s actions.

Some of Russia’s stalwart allies—such as Cuba, Iran, and Nicaragua—abstained on the vote, whereas Eastern European countries with close ties to Russia—such as Serbia and Hungary—voted in favor of the resolution. Russia’s backers solely amounted to Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, and Syria.

The vote marked an important diplomatic victory for the United States, which has led international efforts to isolate Russia at the United Nations, and secured the votes of key Middle East allies, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, which either abstained on a similar U.N. Security Council vote last Friday or declined to co-sponsor it. But the specter of a major military power blatantly attacking another U.N. member state turned the mood sharply against Moscow.

“Today we call on Russia to stop its unprovoked, unjustified, unconscionable war,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, before the vote, noting it was the first time in nearly 40 years that the council had referred a crisis to an emergency special session. “We call on another neighbor of Ukraine, Belarus, to stop supporting the war and stop allowing its territory to be used to facilitate this aggression.”

“It appears Russia is preparing to increase the brutality of its campaign against Ukraine,” she added. “We’ve seen videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weapons into Ukraine, which have no place on the battlefield. That includes cluster munitions and vacuum bombs, which are banned under the Geneva Convention.”

For Olof Skoog, the European Union ambassador to the United Nations, the vote, though nonbinding, was a watershed.

“This is a historic vote. It is not just about Ukraine, not just about Europe. It is about defending an international order based on rules we all have signed up to,” he said. “This is about whether we choose tanks and missiles or dialogue and diplomacy. The Russian government stands increasingly alone. The world has stated that it must immediately stop the aggression, withdraw its troops, and abide by the rules of the U.N. Charter.”

Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, told the international gathering that the Russian military “has come to Ukrainian soil, not only to kill some of us. They have come to deprive Ukraine of the very right to exist.”

Russia and Belarus’s U.N. envoys sought to portray Ukraine as the aggressor in the conflict, which Russia instigated with an unprovoked invasion of its neighbor on Feb. 24.

“This document will not allow us to end military activities,” Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told the General Assembly. He accused Ukrainian authorities of using civilians as human shields and positioning rocket launchers and artillery in the residential areas that Russia has plastered missiles and cluster munitions with. “On the contrary, it could embolden [Ukrainian] radicals and nationalist[s] to continue to determine the policy of their country at any price.”

“We categorically reject accusations against Belarus that we are involved in unlawful use of force against Ukraine,” Belarus’s ambassador told the General Assembly before the vote, accusing the United States of hypocritically singling out Russia when it intervened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and the former Yugoslavia, among other countries, in recent decades. “What is happening today in this room, and beyond, is another clear demonstration of double standards.”

China, which generally votes alongside Russia at the United Nations, abstained on the resolution, saying it had not been adequately consulted about the substance of the text and was concerned that it might not help advance diplomatic negotiations.

“What is now unfolding is indeed heart-wrenching,” the Chinese delegate told the council. But China—which has ambitions to gain control over Taiwan—underscored the importance of national sovereignty, saying “sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected and international disputes should be resolved peacefully in accordance with the purposes of principals of the U.N. Charter.”

The United States decided to press for a vote in the General Assembly after Russia vetoed the adoption of a similar resolution on Friday at the U.N. Security Council, the first time in about 40 years that the 15-nation council asked the assembly to do its work.

The final General Assembly resolution “deplores in the strongest terms the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine in violation” of the U.N. Charter and demands Russia immediately cease its use of force and “immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.”

The resolution also demands Russia reverse its decision to recognize the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the Russia-backed statelets in Ukraine’s east, as independent states. The resolution urges a diplomatic outcome to the crisis and requests the U.N.’s emergency relief coordinator to provide a report on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine in 30 days.

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

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