UN passes resolution demanding Russian withdrawal from Ukraine

Non-binding resolution easily wins General Assembly approval on eve of anniversary of Russia's invasion

Outside UN headquarters in New York, protesters mark the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine. AFP
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The UN General Assembly has approved a resolution demanding that Russia immediately pull all of its troops out of Ukraine and calling for a cessation of hostilities, one year after Moscow invaded its western neighbour.

Member nations met at a special session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday to condemn the February 24, 2022, invasion that Secretary General Antonio Guterres earlier called an “affront to our collective conscience”.

He described the anniversary as “a grim milestone for the people of Ukraine and for the international community”.

The non-binding resolution was approved by 141 countries. Seven voted no and 32 abstained, including China.

The vote came one day after Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that China could be making plans to provide arms to Russia.

Dai Bing, China's deputy ambassador to the UN, told the General Assembly that “sending weapons will not bring peace” and called for negotiations.

He warned against “man-made nuclear accidents”, and added that “nuclear weapons cannot be used — nuclear war cannot be fought”.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who described the vote as “historic”, demanded Russia “withdraw immediately, completely and unconditionally from Ukraine's internationally recognised territory”.

“Send your troops home,” she said.

While non-binding, the vote laid out the extent of support for Kyiv around the world as the war grinds on, with Russia occupying large areas of Ukraine and both sides gearing up for intensified fighting in the spring.

UN diplomats had been hoping for as many as 150 votes in support of the resolution, but the final tally was exactly the same as a similar resolution on March 2 last year that condemned Russia’s invasion and demanded it withdraw its troops.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told reporters that Russia has “tried during the whole week to distract and disrupt United Nations work with manoeuvres”.

“Once again, it has failed,” he said.

On Wednesday, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had urged delegates to support the resolution, sponsored by dozens of the country's allies, saying they faced a “decisive moment”.

“Never in recent history has the line between good and evil been so clear,” he said. “One country merely wants to live. The other wants to kill and destroy.”

One year of the Russia-Ukraine war — in pictures

But Russia's ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya described Ukraine as “neo-Nazi” and accused the West of sacrificing the country and the developing world in their desire to beat Moscow.

“They are ready to plunge the entire world into the abyss of war” to maintain their own “hegemony”, Mr Nebenzya said.

The resolution underscores the need to “reach, as soon as possible, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in line with the UN Charter.

But it makes no direct reference to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's 10-point peace plan presented at the G20 summit in November.

On March 24 last year, 140 states voted to demand civilian protection and humanitarian access in Ukraine.

Then on October 12, 143 countries voted to condemn Russia's “attempted illegal annexation” of four partially occupied regions of Ukraine.

Updated: February 23, 2023, 10:17 PM