From a tiny Pacific island nation to Europe’s economic powerhouse, country after country lashed out Tuesday at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and urged support for a UN resolution demanding an immediate halt to Moscow’s offensive and withdrawal of all Russian troops.
Russian President Vladimir Putin did have a few supporters Tuesday at the UN General Assembly’s emergency session, including Cuba and North Korea. And there were countries that took no position on the draft resolution, such as Suriname and South Africa, which urged compromise and diplomacy to find a lasting resolution to the crisis.
The final 10 speakers Wednesday morning include a late addition, Russian ally Belarus. Its representative address the world body just before the United States and is virtually certain to support Moscow’s invasion.
The draft resolution “deplores the involvement of Belarus in this unlawful use of force against Ukraine” and calls for it to comply with its international obligations.
As of late Tuesday, the resolution had 94 co-sponsors, including several surprises to UN diplomats — Afghanistan, where the Taliban ousted the elected government last August, and Myanmar, where the military overthrew the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on 01 February, 2021.
In speaking in favour of the resolution Tuesday, Palau’s UN Ambassador, Ilana Seid, told the assembly that Ukraine and Palau have little in common — “one is a large post-Soviet state in eastern Europe and the other is a small, blue ocean state.”
Yet, she said, Palau feels some connection because both became independent in the early 1990s. “And so, it hasn’t escaped us, that if the turns of fate had one of our former colonisers act with the aggression of Russia towards us, citing the justification of historical unity, it would have been our people who would be suffering the atrocities of war we are seeing in Ukraine today.”
Seid said the claim of “historical unity” was the justification Hitler made in absorbing Czechoslovakia, setting events in motion that brought on World War II. “Thus, history has shown us that we simply cannot make concessions to an aggressive power in order to avoid conflict,” she said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, whose country is Europe’s largest economic power, said what is at stake in Russia’s war in Ukraine is “the life or death of the Ukrainian people,” European security, and the Charter of the United Nations which calls for peaceful settlement of conflicts and maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all UN member nations.
Baerbock, who flew to New York to address the assembly’s first emergency special session in decades, lashed out at Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, saying he was guilty of telling “blatant lies” to the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier Tuesday by arguing that Russia is acting in self-defense to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine and has sent its troops as “peacekeepers.”
In fact, she said, the world watched Russia build up troops over months to prepare for its attack and is watching as its forces “are bombing the homes of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Kharkiv,” the country’s second-largest city.
“Lavrov, you can deceive yourself, but you won’t deceive your own people,” Baerbock said.
Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly voted Wednesday to demand that Russia stop its offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all troops, with nations from world powers to tiny island states condemning Moscow’s actions.
The vote was 141 to 5, with 35 abstentions. It came after the 193-member assembly convened its first emergency session since 1997.
Assembly resolutions aren’t legally binding, but they do have clout in reflecting international opinion. A Russian veto sank a similar resolution in the more powerful UN Security Council on Friday, but the assembly allows no vetoes. Under special emergency session rules, a resolution needs approval of two-thirds of those countries voting, and abstentions don’t count.
More than 90 countries co-sponsored the assembly resolution. It deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine “in the strongest terms” and demanded an immediate halt to Moscow’s use of force and the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders. The measure also called on Russia to reverse a decision to recognise two separatist parts of eastern Ukraine as independent.