NEW YORK – The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution on Wednesday demanding that Russia immediately end its military operations in Ukraine.
Known informally as the world’s “town hall”, the Assembly is where all 193 UN Member States have a voice. A total of 141 countries voted in favour of the resolution, which reaffirms Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
Assembly President Abdulla Shahid struggled to read the results of the vote as ambassadors began applauding, and then standing up, as he started speaking.
The resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
It was sponsored by more than 90 countries and needed a two-thirds majority in the Assembly to pass.
Five countries – Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (more commonly known as North Korea) Eritrea, Russia and Syria – voted against it, while 35 abstained.
The voting capped off a rare special emergency session of the General Assembly that began on Monday, during which countries took to the podium to declare their positions on the crisis, now entering a second week.
‘Loud and clear’
Speaking afterwards to reporters, Mr. Shahid said the resolution reflected the international community’s grave concerns about the situation in Ukraine.
“I join Member States in expressing concern about ‘reports of attacks on civilian facilities such as residences, schools and hospitals, and of civilian casualties, including women, older persons, persons with disabilities, and children’,” he said, citing the text.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who also addressed reporters, stated he was duty bound to stand by the resolution and be guided by its call.
“The message of the General Assembly is loud and clear: End hostilities in Ukraine now. Silence the guns now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy now.”
Clock is ticking
The UN chief stressed the need to act quickly as the situation in Ukraine threatens to get much worse, adding “the ticking clock is a time bomb.”
A humanitarian appeal launched on Tuesday has been met with “record generosity”, he said, which will allow for a scale-up in the delivery of vital assistance, including medical and health supplies, as well as food, water and protection.
“Looking ahead, I will continue to do everything in my power to contribute to an immediate cessation of hostilities and urgent negotiations for peace,” Mr. Guterres told journalists.
Reason to believe
“People in Ukraine desperately need peace. And people around the world demand it.”
For Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, this was “a defining day,” recalling words from his statement in the Assembly.
“The UN is still alive and going through the process of catharsis,” he said. “I believe in the United Nations; now people in Ukraine have more reasons to believe in the United Nations.”