India breaks with Russia in UN vote over ‘illegal’ referendums in Ukraine

Russia sought a secret ballot on Albania's resolution to denounce Moscow's annexation of four Ukrainian regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India is a long-time ally of Russia that has sought to balance its position on the war in Ukraine. AFP
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India has voted against a proposal by long-time ally Russia for a secret ballot at the UN General Assembly on a resolution to denounce its annexation of four regions of Ukraine.

Moscow put forward the request for a vote on the bill brought to the 193-member General Assembly on Monday by Albania to denounce Russia's "illegal so-called referendums" and "attempted illegal annexation" of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.

But India joined 107 countries in voting for an open, recorded ballot, with just 13 nations backing Moscow. Thirty-nine countries abstained, and the rest — including China and Russia — did not vote.

Although Security Council votes are binding, permanent members have a veto. While votes at the General Assembly are non-binding, there is no way for Russia to block the ballot.

Once the motion to hold a recorded vote was adopted, Russia appealed against the ruling of the president of the General Assembly and sought reconsideration of the decision.

Russia’s Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia called the vote an “outrageous fraud” and “unprecedented manipulation, undermining the authority of the General Assembly and the United Nations as a whole”.

“Of course, in such circumstances, we opted to not take part in the vote,” he said.

India was one of the four countries that abstained on a draft resolution at the Security Council last month condemning the referendum organised by Russia across the four regions inside Ukraine.

India is a long-time ally of Russia that has sought to balance its position on the war to maintain trade and energy ties with Moscow but without incurring US and western sanctions.

New Delhi has refused to explicitly condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine country and repeatedly abstained from voting on the western-backed resolutions at the UN, since the war broke out in February.

But India has used its independent policy on the conflict to call on both sides to avoid violence and resolve the dispute through dialogue.

Last month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated his country's position and told Russian President Vladimir Putin it was "not the time for war” as the leaders met during the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation summit in September.

The remarks, which came as the Russian leader also met Chinese President Xi Jinping, appeared to further isolate Moscow over the damaging eight-month conflict in Ukraine.

Updated: October 11, 2022, 8:18 AM