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The UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to denounce Russia’s military assault on Ukraine — the latest major diplomatic setback to President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch an “unprovoked” war in Eastern Europe.
In all, 141 countries supported the resolution, five nations voted against and 35 nations abstained. The resolution required support from two-thirds of the assembly to pass. Diplomats stood and applauded after the vote.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said members had spoken “loud and clear".
“The world wants an end to the tremendous human suffering in Ukraine,” he said. “End hostilities in Ukraine — now. Silence the guns — now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy — now.”
Before the vote, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield blamed Mr Putin for an “unprovoked, unjustified, unconscionable war” and widespread suffering in Ukraine, where hundreds have died and millions are being uprooted.
“The truth is that this war was one man’s choice and one man alone: President Putin,” she said under the UN assembly hall's golden-domed roof.
“It was his choice to force hundreds of thousands of people to stuff their lives into backpacks and flee the country. To send newborn babies into makeshift bomb shelters. To make children with cancer huddle in hospital basements, interrupting their treatment, essentially sentencing them to death.”
Ukraine's UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya received a round of applause after addressing the chamber, holding up a copy of the UN Charter and saying members had a “duty” to vote for the resolution.
Russia's UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya accused western states of “unprecedented pressure” and “cynical threats” to influence the vote, saying it would not deter Russia from what he called a necessary military operation.
The resolution, a copy of which was obtained by The National, "condemns the 24 February 2022 declaration by the Russian Federation of a 'special military operation' in Ukraine," as well as the "decision of the Russian Federation to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces."
It also deplores Russia's recognition of pro-Kremlin breakaway regions and calls on Moscow to immediately halt aggression and withdraw its troops.
The UN assembly voted against a backdrop of spiralling chaos in Ukraine, with street fighting breaking out in its second city, Kharkiv, after Russian paratroopers landed amid a barrage of air strikes and shelling.
All 193 UN member states had a chance to speak at the three-day debate — making the event a barometer of global attitudes towards the invasion of Ukraine and the worst fighting Europe has seen in years.
It is only the 11th time in the UN's history that such an emergency session has been held following a Security Council veto. The last time involved Israel in 1982.
The session began with diplomats standing for one minute of silence to honour the victims of fighting in Ukraine, a country of about 44 million people, before assembly president Abdulla Shahid spoke, calling for “an immediate ceasefire”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson before the vote called Mr Putin a war criminal for dropping bombs on “innocent civilians” and urged the UN’s wider membership to roundly condemn the invasion.
“We call on every nation to join us in condemning Russia and demanding that Putin turns his tanks around,” said Mr Johnson.
The meeting was the latest in a flurry of diplomacy at the UN. Russia on Friday vetoed a draft Security Council resolution that would have condemned Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
China, the UAE and India abstained and the remaining 11 members voted yes.
The UAE on Wednesday voted to support the General Assembly resolution.
Lana Nusseibeh, the UN ambassador for the UAE, said Ukraine's conflict had reached a “dangerous inflection point”, that the vote result sent an important “signal” and called for more “dialogue and effective diplomacy” to end the crisis.
On Tuesday, Ms Nusseibeh said the UAE would be “flexible” in its diplomacy.
“This is not a one-position approach,” she said in regard to the Ukraine crisis.
Security Council resolutions are legally binding, but the body’s permanent members — Russia, the US, France, Britain and China — can quash them with a veto. Resolutions of the General Assembly are non-binding, but carry moral force and cannot be vetoed.
Mr Putin on February 24 launched a large-scale military assault into neighbouring Ukraine, deploying tens of thousands of troops across the country, backed by tanks, fighter jets and ships.
More than 836,000 people have fled Ukraine since Russia began what it called a “special military operation”, the UN's refugee agency says, and the number is growing steadily.
Russia has since become a global pariah as ordinary Ukrainians take up arms to defend their country. Moscow has been hit by a barrage of sanctions including a ban from western airspace and key financial networks.