Hours Before Ukraine Conflict Enters Second Year, General Assembly Adopts Resolution Demanding Russian Federation Withdraw Military Forces, Adjourning Emergency Session

The General Assembly adjourned its emergency special session on Ukraine today on the eve of the first anniversary of the Russian Federation’s invasion of that country, adopting a resolution that underscored the need to urgently reach peace, demanded that the Russian Federation withdraw its military forces and emphasized the need to ensure accountability for crimes committed on Ukraine’s territory.

The text — “Principles of the Charter of the United Nations underlying a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine” — was adopted by a recorded vote of 141 in favour to 7 against (Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua, Russian Federation and Syria), with 32 abstentions.

By its terms, the General Assembly underscored the need to reach — as soon as possible — a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine in line with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, also calling on Member States and international organizations to redouble support for diplomatic efforts towards this end.Further, reaffirming its commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders — extending to its territorial waters — the Assembly reiterated its demand that the Russian Federation immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its military forces from Ukraine’s territory and called for a cessation of hostilities.

The Assembly also demanded that the treatment by the parties to the armed conflict of all prisoners of war be in accordance with certain international conventions, and called for the complete exchange of such prisoners, the release of all unlawfully detained persons and the return of all internees and civilians forcibly transferred and deported. Through the text, the Assembly called for full adherence by such parties to their obligations under international humanitarian law to spare the civilian population and civilian objects; to ensure safe, unhindered humanitarian access to those in need; and to immediately cease attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure.

The resolution also saw the Assembly emphasize the need to ensure accountability for the most serious crimes under international law committed on Ukraine’s territory through appropriate, fair and independent investigations and prosecutions at the national or international level. Further, it urged all Member States to cooperate to address the war’s global impact on food security, energy, finance, the environment and nuclear security and safety.

Prior to adopting the resolution, the Assembly, by recorded vote, rejected two resolutions submitted by Belarus. Among other changes, such amendments would have replaced certain preambular language referencing “aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, including continuous attacks against critical infrastructure across Ukraine” with “hostilities in Ukraine”. They also would have inserted new operative language to condemn statements made by certain leaders regarding their true intentions when devising the Minsk agreements as well to call on Member States to address the root causes of the conflict and to refrain from sending weapons into the conflict zone.

Before the General Assembly took action on those texts, Member States delivered statements in continuation of the debate that began on 22 February (for background, see GA/12491).

“We did not want this war,” said Hadja Lahbib, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, underscoring that “this is not a war of the West against Russia”. Ukraine was attacked on its sovereign territory, and its very existence is being threatened. Stressing that the misinformation and false equivalencies spread by the Russian Federation for almost a year are not backed up by facts, she said that “justice will find the right word” to describe the suffering of Ukrainian children and the cities forever marked by horror.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, held up a copy of the Charter of the United Nations and said that the instrument clearly prohibits aggression and wars of conquest — like the Russian Federation’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine. Stating that today’s vote provides an opportunity to vote for peace, he added: “let us not miss this opportunity”.

Iran’s representative, however, said the text neither comprehensively and impartially addresses the issue nor acknowledges the provocations that have contributed to this crisis. All parties involved must abandon their military ambitions, and he called for an immediate ceasefire. Further, he urged the United Nations to establish a cross-regional group of impartial countries to facilitate constructive dialogue and identify solutions to the current impasse.

Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, also called on the international community to focus on establishing an immediate ceasefire and helping to launch peace talks as soon as possible. The most-important duty is to save lives, which is accomplished neither through the delivery of weapons nor the imposition of sanctions. He added that wherever there is a conflict between East and West, “we in Central Europe have always lost”, calling for connectivity and cooperation instead of blocs.

The speaker for China, similarly, stressed that the international community’s top priority should be to facilitate a ceasefire and a cessation of hostilities without delay as the longer the brutality continues, the greater the human suffering will be. He also observed that sending weapons will not bring peace and urged the countries concerned to stop abusing sanctions and act in a manner conducive to de-escalation. The parties must prevent this crisis from worsening, he said, underscoring that “nuclear weapons cannot be used and that nuclear war cannot be fought”.

On that point, Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, pointed out that no country other than the Russian Federation has used nuclear rhetoric. Joining other delegations in stressing that this war is everybody’s business, she said that it denies the existence of borders. Neutrality is therefore not a possibility, and letting Moscow dictate the terms would represent a failure of the international order.

Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs echoed that, stating that it would be a victory for the aggressor if its actions were tolerated. Peace must be based on principles, he pointed out, adding that while hostilities must immediately stop, this will not necessarily produce a comprehensive, just and lasting peace. “What if a permanent member of the Security Council launched an aggression against your homeland, grabbed your territory, and then ceased hostilities, calling for peace?” he asked, calling such a peace unjust.

Annalena Baerbock, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, spotlighted “the peace plan right here in front of us — called the Charter of the United Nations”. Moscow must withdraw its troops from Ukraine, stop its bombing and return to the Charter, as there is no peace if an aggressor is rewarded for its ruthless violence. Echoing others that “we did not choose this war”, she said that the international community would rather focus its energy on fixing schools, fighting the climate crisis and strengthening social justice.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, noted that his country’s citizens have donated over €40 million in support of Ukraine’s defensive efforts and that its Government has provided protection and humanitarian relief to tens of thousands of Ukrainians. “But none of that is sufficient to stop Russia’s war,” he stressed, noting that Moscow continues its aggression because it enjoys impunity. The Security Council is paralyzed because the Russian Federation wields veto power in that organ and, therefore, the role of the General Assembly becomes more important. As such, he called on Member States to rise to the occasion and support Ukraine’s peace formula.

Following the morning’s statements, several delegations offered explanations of vote both before and after the Assembly adopted the resolution. Some representatives — like those of Nigeria and Angola — objected to language in the text pertaining to ensuring accountability for crimes committed on Ukraine’s territory. Others, such as the speakers for South Africa, Lesotho and India, stressed that the resolution does not serve to bring the parties closer to peace.

The representative of South Sudan, noting that his Government has continuously abstained on this issue over the past year, said that it voted in favour today for the sole reason that the conflict must stop.

Also speaking during the morning’s debate were Ministers and representatives of Albania, Slovakia, Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Netherlands, Latvia, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Ireland, Finland, Colombia, Uruguay and Romania, along with an observer for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

Also delivering explanations of vote were representatives of Djibouti, Nepal, Thailand, Brazil, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Pakistan.

The representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Pursuant to the adopted resolution, the eleventh emergency special session of the General Assembly temporarily adjourned, with its President authorized to resume its meetings upon request from Member States.

Source: UN General Assembly