The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on Wednesday condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the support of 141 countries out of 193 and a standing ovation in the chamber.
Russia voted against the measure, joined by Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria.
The vote was symbolic and is not legally binding. Still, the vote reflected Russia’s growing isolation on the international stage as war rages in Ukraine. The General Assembly’s special emergency session in New York was part of a larger U.N. effort to hold Russia accountable and to find an end to the conflict.
“The U.N. is being challenged,” the U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the assembly before the vote. “If it has any purpose, it is to prevent war and to condemn war and to stop war. That is our job here today.”
The four-page resolution calls for an immediate halt to the conflict, urges diplomatic negotiations for a peaceful resolution and says that territorial gain from the threat of force will not be recognized. It demands that Russian forces withdraw immediately, protect civilians and allow the safe passage of humanitarian aid.
The resolution also criticizes Belarus, saying it “deplores” that country’s involvement in the war.
“The Russian government stands increasingly alone,” the E.U. representative, Olof Skoog, said. “The European Union and the world stand with the Ukrainian people.”
Russia’s ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, told the General Assembly that the resolution would not bring peace and accused the United States and its closest allies of “exerting pressure on countries” to support the resolution, through “open and cynical threats.”
Thirty-four countries abstained, including China, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan, Armenia and 16 African countries. In speeches to the General Assembly in the past few days, African representatives said that their citizens were being discriminated against in Ukraine and while trying to flee across European borders.
Diplomats from developing nations noted that the international community had mobilized far more quickly over the invasion of a European nation than over conflicts raging in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, told the General Assembly on Tuesday that when she called counterparts around the world to rally support for Ukraine they had said: “You are calling on us to show solidarity for Europe, but where have you been for us in the past?”
Some countries, including China, South Africa and Iran, complained that the resolution was submitted without full consultation and input from all member countries, and it therefore risked inflaming rather than de-escalating the crisis.
“We had no choice but to abstain,” China’s ambassador, Zhang Jun, said.
Iraq’s ambassador, Bahr Aluloom, said that his country, which was invaded by the U.S. in 2003, had abstained “because of our sufferings resulting from the continuing wars against our people.”
Before the vote, the Ukrainian ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, took the podium and held up a blue booklet containing the U.N. charter. He invited all countries voting in support of the resolution to sign it, and said he would give it to the U.N. secretary general, Antonio Guterres.
After the vote, Mr. Guterres told reporters: “The message of the General Assembly is loud and clear. End hostilities in Ukraine, now. Silence the guns, now. The ticking clock is a time bomb.”