Israel was among 141 countries to condemn Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine in the UN General Assembly Wednesday and was among the dozens who co-sponsored the resolution.
Five countries opposed the UN-backed resolution: Russia, Syria, North Korea, Eritrea and Belarus.
Of the UN’s 193 member states, 35 abstained including China, Cuba, India and Iran. Twelve were absent.
After the resolution’s passage, Ambassador Gilad Erdan stood with the diplomats in the room who burst into applause.
Erdan’s office distributed a video in which he can be seen standing and clapping. It’s the second such video the Israeli mission to the UN in New York has published that underscores Erdan’s strong support for Ukraine.
On orders from Jerusalem, Erdan was prevented from delivering a speech in favor of the resolution at the plenum Tuesday, where Israel was represented by the country’s Deputy Ambassador Noa Furman.
US President Joe Biden applauded the decision on Wednesday night, saying the condemnation "demonstrates the extent of global outrage at Russia's horrific assault on a sovereign neighbor and showcases unprecedented global unity.Her delivery of Israel’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be viewed as diplomatic downgrade of the statement, while Israel’s signature on the document itself on Wednesday upgraded the significance of the condemnation. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield tweeted, “Proud to witness today’s historic, overwhelming vote in defense of Ukraine and the UN Charter. 141 UN Member States have voted to #StandWithUkraine and hold Russia accountable.”
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his appreciation for the global support the UNGA showed “with a strong demand to Russia to immediately stop the treacherous attack on [Ukraine].
“I’m grateful to everyone [and] every state that voted in favor. You have chosen the right side of history,” he tweeted.
It shows that “a global anti-Putin coalition has been formed and is functioning. The world is with us. The truth is on our side. Victory will be ours!” Zelensky tweeted.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UNGA had spoken in a “loud and clear” voice. “End hostilities in Ukraine — now. Silence the guns — now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy — now,” he added.
“We don’t have a moment to lose. The brutal effects of the conflict are plain to see,” he said, as he warned that the situation could get much worse.”
Guterres emphasized the “People of Ukraine desperately need peace. And people around the world demand it.”
The US backed resolution deplored “in the strongest terms the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine” and noted that in so doing it was “in violation of Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter.”
It demanded that Russia withdraw from Ukrainian territory.
The text also condemned “the Russian Federation’s decision to increase the readiness of its nuclear forces.”
Uniting for Peace
The meeting was held under a special emergency mechanism called “uniting for peace” designed to allow the UNGA to skirt the UNSC. This was only the 11th time since the UN was founded in 1945 that the UNGA has involved this mechanism.
The US turned to the UNGA after it failed to secure a resolution against the invasion of Ukraine at the security council last week, when Russia used its veto power to block the move.
Israel at the time turned down a US request to sign onto that text as a signatory even though it is not a member of the UNSC.
Prior to Wednesday’s vote the Syrian envoy spoke in defense of Russia, noting that the text ignored the real reason for the escalation of tensions.
“Had the US and its western allies been serious in de-escalating the situation they would have fulfilled the promises they undertook three decades ago” and would not have transformed “Ukraine into a continuous threat to the Russian Federation.”
The Syrian envoy added that it was also hypocritical, because those who defended the UN charter against Russia should have showed the same “eagerness vis a vis Israel’s continued occupation of the Arab territories” and the Turkish and US violations against his own country, the envoy said.
Thomas-Greenfield told the assembly that Russia was poised to intensify the brutality of its offensive and urged members to hold Moscow accountable for its violations of international law.
She cited videos of Russian troops moving heavy weapons into Ukraine, including cluster munitions and vacuum bombs, banned under international law.
“This is an extraordinary moment,” she said. “Now, at more than any other point in recent history, the United Nations is being challenged.”
“Vote yes if you believe UN member states – including your own – have a right to sovereignty and territorial integrity. Vote yes if you believe Russia should be held to account for its actions,” she added.
Russia’s UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, denied Moscow was targeting civilians and accused Western governments of pressuring assembly members to pass the resolution, whose adoption, he said, could fuel further violence.
He repeated Russia’s assertion that its action was a special military operation aimed at ending purported attacks on civilians in the self-declared Moscow-backed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
Nebenzia charged that Ukrainian forces were using civilians as human shields and deploying heavy weapons in civilian areas.
Elaborating on China’s abstention, Beijing’s envoy, Zhang Jun, said the resolution did not undergo “full consultations with the whole membership” of the assembly.
“Nor does it take full consideration of the history and complexity of the current crisis. It does not highlight the importance of the principle of indivisible security, or the urgency of promoting political settlement and stepping up diplomatic efforts,” he said. “These are not in line with China’s consistent positions.”
China, which has grown increasingly close to Russia in recent years, says it will not participate in Western sanctions against Moscow.
“The evil will never stop. It requires more and more space,” Ukraine’s UN envoy, Sergiy Kyslytsa, said in urging passage of the resolution, calling it “one of the building blocks to build a wall to stop” the Russian offensive.
Reuters contributed to this report