HARARE – Zimbabwe on Wednesday joined 34 other countries that abstained from a United Nations vote to condemn Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four partially occupied regions in Ukraine.
The UN resolution, which passed with the support of 143 countries – three-quarters of the 193-member General Assembly – also called on all countries not to recognise the move, strengthening a diplomatic international isolation of Moscow since it invaded its neighbour.
Zimbabwe, which has not condemned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, was among countries that abstained along with China, India, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Tanzania and others.
Only four countries joined Russia in voting against the resolution – Syria, Nicaragua, North Korea and Belarus.
South Africa offered an explanation for its abstention, arguing that the resolution was designed to inflame the situation in Ukraine and not find peace.
“We abstained from the resolution because we believe the objective of this Assembly in keeping with its mandate must always be to contribute to a constructive outcome conducive to the creation of sustainable peace in Ukraine,” South Africa’s foreign ministry said.
“Unfortunately, some elements of the resolution do not address this. In the context of heightened tensions in recent days, all efforts should be geared towards a ceasefire and a political solution.”
“It’s amazing,” Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told reporters after the vote as he stood next to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who said the result showed Russia could not intimidate the world.
“Today it is Russia invading Ukraine. But tomorrow it could be another nation whose territory is violated. It could be you. You could be next. What would you expect from this chamber?” Thomas-Greenfield told the General Assembly before the vote.
Moscow in September proclaimed its annexation of four partially occupied regions in Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – after staging controversial referendums. Ukraine and allies have denounced the votes as illegal and coercive.
The General Assembly vote followed a veto by Russia last month of a similar resolution in the 15-member Security Council.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the General Assembly ahead of the vote that the resolution was “politicised and openly provocative,” adding that it “could destroy any and all efforts in favour of a diplomatic solution to the crisis.”
The moves at the United Nations mirror what happened in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. The General Assembly then adopted a resolution declaring the referendum invalid with 100 votes in favour, 11 against and 58 formal abstentions.
China abstained on Wednesday because it did not believe the resolution will be helpful, China’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Geng Shuang said.
“Any action taken by the General Assembly should be conducive to the de-escalation of the situation, to be conducive to the early resumption of dialogue and should be conducive to the promotion of a political solution to this crisis,” he said.
The United States and other Western countries lobbied ahead of Wednesday’s vote. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened a virtual meeting on Tuesday with diplomats from more than 100 countries.
They won dozens more votes than compared with the 2014 result, and improved on the 141 countries who voted to denounce Russia and demand it withdraw its troops from Ukraine within a week of its February 24 invasion.
Moscow has then been trying to chip away at its international isolation. As Russia and the West have vied for diplomatic influence, some states – particularly in the global South – have grown concerned about paying the price for being squeezed in the middle of an intense geopolitical rivalry.
“We deplore the politics of the double standards of the powerful of this world when it comes to Africa,” Democratic Republic of Congo U.N. Ambassador Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja told the General Assembly on Wednesday.
“We support Ukraine. We want to see the war ended,” he said. “But we would like to see the international community take similar action against other situations in the world where countries are being invaded and occupied.” – Reuters