UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution Thursday that calls for Russia to end hostilities in Ukraine and demands the withdrawal of its forces, sending a strong message on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion that Moscow’s aggression must end.
The 141-7 vote with 32 abstentions was slightly below the highest vote for the five previous resolutions approved by the 193-member world body since Russia sent troops and tanks across the border into its smaller neighbor on Feb. 24, 2022.
The General Assembly has become the most important U.N. body dealing with Ukraine because the Security Council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, is paralyzed by Russia’s veto power. Its resolutions are not legally binding, unlike Security Council resolutions, but serve as a barometer of world opinion.
Foreign ministers and diplomats from more than 75 countries addressed the assembly during two days of debate, with many urging support for the resolution that upholds Ukraine’s territorial integrity, a basic principle of the U.N. Charter that all countries must subscribe to when they join the world organization.
The war has killed tens of thousands on both sides and has reduced entire cities to ruins and its impact has been felt worldwide in higher food and fuel costs and rising inflation.
In his own appeal, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said Ukrainians deserve “not only our compassion, but also our support and solidarity.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock 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. “But the truth is: If Russia stops fighting, this war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends.”
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.
While other countries focused on Russia’s actions, Deputy Ambassador Joaquín Pérez Ayestarán said Wednesday that all countries without exception “must stringently comply with the United Nations Charter.”
He said the countries in his group were against what he called divisive action in the General Assembly, and for “a spirit of compromise.”
China’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dai Bing told the assembly Thursday: “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.”
But European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters the aggressor and the victim can’t be put on equal terms, and Ukraine cannot be asked not to defend itself.
Unhappily, he said, “Russia has not sent any positive signal of any minimum willingness to work for a peace.”
He said “that’s reality” and everyone who went to the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin will continue with his so-called special military operation “until he gets the military objective that he has been unable to get.”
Associated Press journalists Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, Vineeta Deepak in New Delhi and Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed.