Russia on Friday vetoed a Western motion at the UN Security Council to condemn its annexations of Ukrainian territory, but found no other support as China and India abstained.
Russia’s veto was a certainty, but Western powers hoped to show Moscow’s isolation in its war and will take the condemnation effort to the General Assembly, where every nation has a voice.
The United States pushed through a resolution hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow had taken over four areas of Ukraine hosting Kremlin-organized referendums after the land was seized by the Russian military.
“This is exactly what the Security Council was created for. Defending sovereignty, protecting territorial integrity, promoting peace and security,” said US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the start of the meeting.
“The United Nations was built on the idea that one country would never again be allowed to take another’s territory by force,” she said.
Russia’s Ambassador Wassily Nebenzia complained that it was unprecedented to seek the condemnation of one of the five permanent members of the Security Council who are vetoing.
“Do you seriously expect Russia to consider and support such a draft? And if not, then it turns out that you are deliberately pushing us to use the right of veto, only to rave about Russia abusing that right,” Nebenzia said.
The resolution, co-sponsored by the United States and Albania, would have condemned the “illegal” referendums in Russian-held parts of Ukraine and urged all states not to recognize changes to Ukraine’s borders.
She also called on Russia to immediately withdraw troops from Ukraine, ending an invasion that began on February 24.
– China urges “restraint” –
Putin visited Beijing shortly before the invasion and agreed to a closer relationship. But China has stopped vigorously supporting Russia, and US officials said Beijing has turned down requests to supply arms.
“The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be protected,” said China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun.
“China urges all parties concerned to exercise restraint, refrain from actions that actually increase tensions, and allow room for a solution through diplomatic negotiations.”
India, Brazil and Gabon also abstained. Notable yes votes included Mexico, which has tabled a peace proposal, and the United Arab Emirates, which had hesitated over US-led sanctions on Russia.
British envoy Barbara Woodward said the Security Council vote showed that Putin’s annexation was a “fantasy” that had “no legal effect”.
“Council members voted in different ways, but one thing is clear – not a single other member of this council recognizes Russia’s attempted illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. Russia’s veto doesn’t change that fact,” she said.
“This is the largest violent conquest of territory since World War II. There is no middle ground.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier Friday said the United States would seek a vote in the General Assembly if there were a veto, saying “every country has an interest in condemning these moves.”