(CNSNews.com) – In a stunning repudiation of President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine, the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday passed by an overwhelming margin a resolution condemning his bid to seize four Ukrainian regions. Even some of Moscow’s traditional allies abstained rather than voting against the measure.
The 193-member General Assembly adopted the resolution by 143 votes to five, with 35 countries abstaining and ten countries not voting.
The “no” votes came from Belarus, North Korea, Nicaragua, Russia, and Syria’s Assad regime.
Significantly, six countries that had joined those five in opposing a similar resolution eight years ago – condemning Putin’s annexation of Crimea – changed their position on Wednesday: Armenia, Bolivia, Cuba, Sudan, and Zimbabwe abstained, and Venezuela’s Maduro regime did not vote.
The resolution condemns the annexations of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, demands that Moscow reverse the move, and “expresses its strong support” for the quest for peace through dialogue, negotiation, and mediation. Moscow two weeks ago vetoed a similar measure in the U.N. Security Council.
While the 2014 resolution on Crimea passed by 100 votes to 11, with 58 abstentions and 24 member-states not voting, Putin’s latest attempt to annex the four regions in the east and south saw noteworthy shifts:
Six fewer countries supported the Kremlin’s actions, 43 more countries opposed them, 23 fewer countries abstained, and 14 fewer countries did not vote (an option sometimes taken by a member not wanting to take a stand on a sensitive issue, rather than reflecting an actual absence)
Diplomats from nations that sponsored the resolution have in recent days been urging member-states not to sit on the fence, and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield did so again shortly before the vote.
“The path to peace does not run through placations,” she said. “The path to peace does not involve turning the other way in the face of these flagrant violations. Peace does not and has never come from silence.”
Thomas-Greenfield told her colleagues that while at issue today was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “tomorrow it could be another nation whose territory is violated. It could be you. You could be next. What would you expect from this chamber?”
“Our message is loud and clear,” she continued. “It does not matter if you as a nation are big or small, rich or poor, old or new. If you are a U.N. member-state, your borders are your own and are protected by international law. They cannot be redrawn by anyone else by force.”
In a statement after the vote, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it “a powerful reminder that the overwhelming majority of nations stand with Ukraine, in defense of the U.N. Charter, and in resolute opposition to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and its people.”
Comparing Wednesday’s voting record with the decisions taken by member-states regarding the Crimea annexation in 2014, five countries (Armenia, Bolivia, Cuba, Sudan, and Zimbabwe) shifted from “no” in 2014 to abstaining now.
On the other hand, five members shifted from voting “yes” to the 2014 condemnation of Russia’s action to abstaining now: Central African Republic, Guinea, Honduras, Thailand, and Togo.
Four countries that did not vote in 2014 abstained on Wednesday: Congo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, and Tajikistan.
In the most striking shift, 33 members that abstained in 2014 supported Wednesday's resolution.
The 33 were Afghanistan, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Comoros, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Guyana, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Mauritania, Nepal, Nauru, Paraguay, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Suriname, Uruguay, and Zambia.
Finally, 21 countries that abstained on Wednesday also abstained in the 2014 vote: Algeria, Burundi, China, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, India, Kazakhstan, Lesotho, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Pakistan, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
Venezuela’s decision not to vote on Wednesday was notable, since its representative was in the chamber and took part in the debate before the vote.
The Maduro regime has closely aligned itself with Russia, and its foreign minister, Carlos Faria, met with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Tuesday. “[W]e stand in solidarity with the Russian people and pledged to continue raising the strategic level of our relations,” Faria tweeted after the meeting with Sergei Lavrov.
'We will continue to isolate Russia'
Speaking outside the chamber after the vote, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya described the outcome as “historic” while Thomas-Greenfield called it “a monumental day.”
“Tomorrow and the days and weeks to come, we will continue to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she said. “We will continue to hold Russia accountable, we will continue to isolate Russia in this institution.”
Russia earlier tried to have the General Assembly vote on the resolution by secret ballot, which would have required the suspension of a rule of procedure, but the meeting voted against the bid.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Wednesday accused Western nations of engaging in an “unprecedented large-scale blackmailing and arms-twisting campaign” to pressure developing countries into supporting the resolution.
He also complained about the failure of Russia’s call for member-states to have “the opportunity to vote by a secret ballot without coercion.”
Accusing the West of “ugly double standards,” Nebenzia said that for the U.S. and NATO “there is no such thing as the ‘sacred’ principle of territorial integrity,” pointing to U.S. expressions of support for Taiwan, which, he said, “is an inalienable part of China.”