US president says vote sends clear message that ‘Russia cannot erase a sovereign state from the map’
The United Nations general assembly has overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four Ukrainian regions, demanding that Moscow reverse course.
US president Joe Biden said the vote sent a “clear message” to Moscow. “The stakes of this conflict are clear to all, and the world has sent a clear message in response – Russia cannot erase a sovereign state from the map,” he said in a statement.
“Russia cannot change borders by force. Russia cannot seize another country’s territory as its own,” Biden said.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he was “grateful to 143 states that supported the historic UNGA [United Nations general assembly] resolution”, tweeting: “The world had its say – [Russia’s] attempt at annexation is worthless and will never be recognised by free nations.”
hree-quarters of the 193-member general assembly – or 143 countries – voted on Wednesday in favour of a resolution that called Moscow’s move illegal, deepening Russia’s international isolation.
Only four countries joined Russia in voting against the resolution – Syria, Nicaragua, North Korea and Belarus. Thirty-five countries abstained, including Russia’s strategic partner China, together with India, South Africa and Pakistan. The rest did not vote.
Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said the vote result was “amazing”.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the vote showed international unity against Russia and repeated that Washington would never recognise the “sham” referendums.
The vote “is a powerful reminder that the overwhelming majority of nations stand with Ukraine, in defence of the UN Charter and in resolute opposition to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and its people,” he said in a statement.
Before the vote, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said: “Today it is Russia invading Ukraine. But 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?”
In September, Moscow proclaimed its annexation of four partially occupied regions in Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – after staging so-called referendums. Ukraine and allies have denounced the votes as illegal and coercive.
The resolution adopted on Wednesday declares that Moscow’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, are “inconsistent” with the principles of the UN charter, and “have no validity under international law and do not form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine.”
It demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.”
It also supports “the de-escalation of the current situation and a peaceful resolution of the conflict through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation and other peaceful means” that respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and internationally recognised borders.
The general assembly vote followed a veto by Russia last month of a similar resolution in the 15-member security council.
Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told the general assembly ahead of the vote that the resolution was “politicised and openly provocative”, adding that it “could destroy any and all efforts in favour of a diplomatic solution to the crisis”.
He also reiterated Russia’s discredited claims the referendums were valid, saying “the populations of these regions do not want to return to Ukraine”.
China abstained on Wednesday because it did not believe the resolution would be helpful, China’s deputy UN ambassador Geng Shuang said.
“Any action taken by the general assembly should be conducive to the de-escalation of the situation, to be conducive to the early resumption of dialogue and should be conducive to the promotion of a political solution to this crisis,” he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Republic of Congo UN ambassador Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja deplored the “double standards” of the west. “We support Ukraine. We want to see the war ended,” he said. “But we would like to see the international community take similar action against other situations in the world where countries are being invaded and occupied.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin is set to meet his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of a regional summit in Kazakhstan on Thursday.
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Wednesday the Turkish president may propose ideas for peace, adding “a very interesting and, I hope, useful discussion awaits us”.