The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn Russia for its legally tenuous “annexation” of Ukrainian territory it had occupied in the country’s south and east—blasting the move as contradictory to the principles of the UN Charter and illegal under international law.
In the Wednesday session, 143 out of the 193 member nations present supported the resolution, which also reaffirmed the “sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity” of Ukraine. Five members—Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Nicaragua—voted against the resolution. Thirty-five others, including China and India, abstained, while ten, including Iran and Venezuela, were not present.
Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s UN ambassador, praised the resolution’s wide passage during a joint press conference with his American counterpart, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Kyslytsya described the margin of victory as “amazing” and emphasized that it showed widespread support for Ukraine. Russian UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia condemned the result, arguing that it was “politicized and openly provocative” and discouraged further diplomacy to end the war. A similar resolution condemning the annexations was proposed in the UN Security Council, but Russia, one of its five permanent members, vetoed it.
The margin of support for Wednesday’s resolution was only slightly higher than a previous General Assembly resolution condemning the invasion in March, which also passed by a wide margin but had several notable abstentions. China, India, and South Africa—three of the five “BRICS” emerging nations—voted to abstain from both resolutions, as did other regional powers such as Pakistan and Ethiopia. Similarly, four of the same five nations voted against the initial resolution, with Eritrea voting against and Niaragua abstaining.
Chinese UN ambassador Geng Shuang explained Beijing’s abstention from the vote on Wednesday by suggesting that the resolution would not help to resolve the conflict. “Any action taken by the General Assembly should be conducive to the de-escalation of the situation [and] the promotion of a political solution to this crisis,” he said, claiming that an open condemnation of Russia would not achieve those aims.
Thomas-Greenfield emphasized after the vote, however, that it was intended to affirm the principles of the UN Charter and show international support for Ukrainian sovereignty.
“It does not matter if you as a nation are big or small, rich or poor, old or new,” she said. “If you are a UN Member State, your borders are your own and are protected by international law. ... They cannot be redrawn by anyone else by force. The UN was built on this idea. And today, the United States and the overwhelming majority of the world defended this idea.”
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.