Delegates at the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted through a non-binding resolution calling for Russia to cease hostilities in Ukraine and withdraw its troops from the region on the eve of the first anniversary of the start of the Russo-Ukrainian war on February 23.
The resolution passed with a vote of 141-7, with 32 countries abstaining. While slightly lower than the previous five resolutions passed by the 193-member world body since Russia's incursion into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the vote demonstrates the widespread support for Ukraine's struggle to expel Russia from its territory.
With Russia wielding veto power in the Security Council, the General Assembly has become the most important UN body dealing with Ukraine. Although its resolutions are not legally binding, they serve as a channel for international condemnation of Russia’s actions.
The resolution was drafted by Ukraine in consultation with its allies and affirms the basic principle of the UN Charter that all countries must uphold the territorial integrity of their neighbours.
Russian ally Belarus lobbied hard to water down the language of the resolution, but was unsuccessful.
Seven countries voted against the resolution: Belarus, Mali, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea.
Over two days of debate foreign ministers and diplomats from more than 75 countries addressed the assembly, with many urging support for the resolution.
Russia has enjoyed the support of many non-aligned countries in the Global South during the UN voting on the war in Ukraine, which has largely sat on the fence and refused to be drawn into the conflict.
Poland is one of Russia’s most outspoken foes. Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said Ukrainians deserve “not only our compassion, but also our support and solidarity.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been very cautious on the conflict and has gone to great pains to not spark WWIII with too aggressive support for Ukraine.
"It’s absolutely obvious that everything we are doing is acceptable," Scholz said in an interview with the ZDF TV channel on February 23. "However, at the same time it’s always right to be wise and that’s why it would be unwise if those who are using the weapons which we are supplying [to Kyiv], for example, could carry out an attack on Russia’s soil.”
However, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was at the UN session, has been a lot more hawkish. She asked countries that claim “that by arming Ukraine, we are pouring oil into the fire” why Western nations would do that.
“The West didn’t want or choose the war and would rather focus all its energy and money on fixing schools, fighting the climate crisis or strengthening social justice,” she told the assembly, as cited by AFP. “But the truth is: If Russia stops fighting, this war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.”
While the opposition to Russia is almost unanimous in Europe and North America, Russia has a lot of friends in Latin America and Africa where it is a major supplier of food, fuel, energy and arms.
Venezuela’s deputy ambassador addressed the council on behalf of 16 countries that either voted against or abstained on almost all of five previous resolutions on Ukraine: Belarus, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Laos, Mali, Nicaragua, North Korea, St. Vincent, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
China’s deputy UN ambassador Dai Bing told the assembly: “We support Russia and Ukraine in moving towards each other, resuming direct dialogue as soon as possible, bringing their legitimate concerns into the negotiation, setting out feasible options, and giving a chance to an early end of the crisis and the rebuilding of peace. The international community should make joint efforts to facilitate peace talks.”
China’s top diplomat Wang Yi has recently been in Moscow where he has brought the outlines of a peace plan to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who has become increasingly hawkish on Russia, told reporters the aggressor and the victim can’t be put on equal terms, and Ukraine cannot be asked not to defend itself.
“Russia has not sent any positive signal of any minimum willingness to work for a peace,” Borrell said. In the last week Borrell has been calling loudly for the West to send Ukraine more and more offensive weapons.