On the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the 193-member UN General Assembly is due to vote on Thursday (23 February) on a motion calling for the unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
Speaking at the start of the session on Wednesday (22 February), UN Secretary-General António Guterres denounced Moscow’s actions as an “attack on our collective conscience”.
At the same time, the UN chief warned of a further escalation of the war, referring to “indirect threats” of the use of nuclear weapons and “irresponsible” military actions in the vicinity of nuclear power plants.
“It is high time to move away from the abyss,” Guterres said.
As fighting in Ukraine continues, the assembly debated a motion backed by Kyiv and its allies calling for a “just and lasting peace.”
Unlike the UN Security Council, Russia has no veto right in the UN General Assembly. Since Moscow invaded Ukraine last February, the assembly has passed a series of resolutions that are not binding under international law, condemning the war.
In March last year, 141 of the 193 UN member states voted in favour of a resolution calling Russia to withdraw from Ukraine “immediately”. In April, the assembly decided with a much narrower majority of 93 votes to suspend Russia’s UN Human Rights Council membership in Geneva.
In October, 143 member states condemned Russia’s “illegal annexations” of Ukraine’s Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions.
Kyiv and its partners are now hoping a large majority of UN states would back the non-binding resolution to demonstrate it has the support of the global community, which is also why the wording in the draft is less sharp than Ukraine would have liked it to be.
About 60 countries have sponsored the resolution, which stresses “the need to reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
The draft resolution reaffirms the UN’s “commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine” and calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
It also demands Russia to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.”
“Never in history has the dividing line between good and evil been so clear: a country just wants to survive. The other wants to kill and destroy,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the assembly.
Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador to the UN, repeated Moscow’s accusation against the West, a few days earlier done by Putin, during Wednesday’s debate.
“They [the West] are ready to plunge the entire world into the abyss of war,” Nebenzya said, again calling Ukraine “neo-fascist.”
Not ‘a European issue’
EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell sharply rejected those claims: “This war against Ukraine is not ‘a European issue’. It is not about ‘the West versus Russia’. No, this illegal war concerns everyone: the North, the South, the East, and the West – the whole world.”
“If we do not condemn and stop Russia’s actions in Ukraine today, this will increase the risk for any other country, elsewhere in the world, to face similar aggression,” Borrell told the assembly.
China, India and more than 30 other countries have abstained during previous UN votes to support Ukraine.
While Russia’s war in Ukraine has united the West, it also revealed a fragmentation of the global order, with an increasing ‘West versus rest’ divide, as a recent survey states.
More than 80 countries are scheduled to address the assembly, which is expected to vote on the draft resolution on Ukraine on Thursday or Friday.
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