image Photo: Reuters

UN: Russia’s Ukraine referendums “illegal”

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has adopted a resolution demanding Russia reverse course on its disputed claims over four regions in Ukraine.

By Erin Viner

Unlike the more powerful Security Council (UNSC), Russia holds no veto power at the UNGA. Nevertheless, resolutions passed by the UNSC are considered legally binding while those ratified at the UNGA are not.

The draft, passed at the 11th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Ukraine, called on the UN, all member states and international organizations to reject Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia in so-called referendums held late last month.

Kremlin-installed officials declared in September that arranged polling in the four Ukrainian regions affirmed support of joining Russia between 87% and 99.2%. Israel and many Western nations condemned the process as “a sham.”

“The General Assembly automatically took up the resolution for debate, triggered by Russia’s use of the veto in the UN Security Council over it’s attempted annexation,” reported UN News, underscoring that, “The resolution “defending the principles” of the UN Charter,” while noting that Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia “are temporarily occupied by Russia as a result of aggression, violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence.”

Russia’s push for a secret ballot rather was voted down.

143 of the UNGA’s 193 member states – including Israel – voted in favor of the pro-Ukraine resolution, 5 opposed and 35 others abstained.

Russia, of course, voted against the measure; joined by its allies Belarus, Syria, Nicaragua and North Korea. Among that that held back from participating in the vote were China, Pakistan, Cuba and 19 African nations including South Africa.

Russia’s UN Ambassador,Vassily Nebenzia denounced the resolution as “a politicized and openly provocative document” he said had been sponsored by “unscrupulous Western blackmailers.”

According to the UN publication, General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi opened the two-day debate by the world body on the matter by insisting that “the UN Charter, Secretary General António Guterres and the Assembly itself have been very clear that Russia’s invasion and its claim to Ukrainian territory by force is without doubt “‘illegal.’” Moreover, said the report, “the resolution welcomes and ‘expresses its strong support’ for the continued efforts by the Secretary General and Member States, to de-escalate the current situation in search of peace through dialogue, negotiation and mediation.

This week alone, Russia has launched a barrage missile strikes on civilian areas of many Ukrainian cities causing dozens of deaths and injuries. UN Secretary General Guterres branded the attacks as yet “another unacceptable escalation” in Russia’s 24 February invasion of the neighboring country.

“When it becomes a daily routine to watch images of destroyed cities and scattered bodies, we lose our humanity…We must find a political solution based on the UN Charter and the international law,” stressed Mr. Kőrösi

Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya hailed the development as an “amazing” and “historic moment.”

“Russia will be held accountable. The EU will stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes,” High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell pledged following the vote.

Also welcoming the decision, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the “remarkable vote at the United Nations General Assembly is a powerful reminder that the overwhelming majority of nations stand with Ukraine, in defense of the UN Charter, and in resolute opposition to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and its people.”

Washington’s top diplomat went on to declare, “territorial integrity is a central pillar of the United Nations, and Russia’s violent contempt for Ukraine’s national borders and sovereignty cannot and will not be accepted.  By adopting this resolution, the assembled nations made clear: they will not tolerate an attempt by any UN Member State to seize land by force.

Saying that “The vote delivers a resounding rebuke to Russia for its aggression against Ukraine,” Secretary Blinken underscored that, “The United States is proud to have voted in favor of this resolution.  As we have stated repeatedly, we will defend the principles of the UN charter and will never recognize the legitimacy of sham referenda or Russia’s attempts to annex portions of Ukraine.”

He concluded his statement by emphasizing that “with very few nations voting with Russia today, it is clear that international unity on this question is resolute and support for Ukraine at the UN and beyond is unwavering.  The United States will continue to work with partners across the globe to support Ukraine’s people in defending their nation in its entirety against Russia’s aggression.”