UN Council defeats Russian humanitarian resolution on Ukraine

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly defeated a Russian resolution that acknowledged Ukraine’s growing humanitarian needs — but made no mention of the Russian invasion that escalated a crisis that has left millions of Ukrainians in desperate need of food, water and shelter.

To be adopted, Russia needed at least nine “yes” votes in the 15-member Security Council, and no veto by one of the other four permanent members — the United States, Britain, France and China. But Russia only got support from its ally China, with 13 other council members abstaining, reflecting Moscow’s failure to gain widespread support for its war in Ukraine, which marks a month since its creation on Thursday.

The Russian defeat came on the same day that the General Assembly began consideration of a draft resolution drafted by Ukraine and twenty other countries co-sponsored by nearly 100 countries that clearly states that Russian aggression is responsible for the growing humanitarian emergency. The assembly also had to consider a rival South African resolution that did not mention Russia and resembled that of the defeated Moscow Council. A decision on those decisions was postponed until Thursday due to the large number of speakers.

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzia, told the council before the vote that his resolution was “depoliticized” just like other humanitarian Security Council resolutions, and flatly rejected the US claim that his country had no right to introduce such a resolution.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield responded by saying that Russia was “trying to use this council to provide cover for its atrocities”.

She said: “It is really inconceivable that Russia has the audacity to present a resolution asking the international community to solve a humanitarian crisis created by Russia alone.” Russia does not care about the deteriorating humanitarian situation. …if they cared, they would stop fighting. Russia is the aggressor, the attacker, the invader, the only party in Ukraine that took part in a brutal campaign against the people of Ukraine, and they want us to pass a resolution that does not recognize their crime.”

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Nebenzia took the floor again after the vote, saying it had revealed all the countries “for whom the politicization of the humanitarian file” is more important than helping deliver aid to Ukrainians. If the diplomats continue to lament the lack of a ceasefire and evacuation provisions, “we will remind you that they were in front of you, but you refused to vote for them for political reasons,” he said.

Explaining his country’s vote in favor of the Russian resolution, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun said that council members should focus on humanitarian issues, “go beyond political differences” and try to reach consensus and “respond to the humanitarian crisis in a positive, pragmatic and constructive way.”

But the French ambassador, Nicolas de Riviere, called the decision “a maneuver by Moscow to justify its aggression against Ukraine.” Albanian envoy Ferit Hoxha called it a “mountain of hypocrisy”, and Mexican ambassador Juan Ramon de la Fuente said the Russian draft did not respond to “the reality on the ground” or “the urgent needs of the civilian population”.

Russia submitted its decision on 15 March. The day before, France and Mexico decided to move their proposed humanitarian resolution blaming the Russian invasion for the humanitarian crisis from the Security Council, where it faced a Russian veto. There is no veto in the 193-member General Assembly.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian Nebenzia told the assembly that by considering the Ukraine-backed Franco-Mexico decision, it is taking part in “another anti-Russian political show, this time placed in an alleged humanitarian context”.

Thomas Greenfield strongly criticized Russia, saying: “In one month, Russia has caused the world’s fastest growing humanitarian disaster.”

According to the United Nations, about 10 million Ukrainians – a quarter of its population – have been forced to flee their homes and are now internally displaced in the country or among the 3.6 million refugees, it said, 12 million in need of assistance and 5.6 million. Children are unable to go to school.

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Ukrainian Ambassador Sergei Kislitsi urged all countries that stand against Russia’s war on his country to vote in favor of a UN resolution on the humanitarian consequences of its aggression, saying that this would send a strong message aimed at helping people caught up in the conflict and ending Moscow’s military action.

Nebenzia responded that the emergency special session of the General Assembly was just “another anti-Russian political show, this time placed in an alleged humanitarian context”. He urged assembly members to vote against the Ukraine-backed measure and support the South African project, which focuses only on humanitarian issues without a “political assessment”.

The Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors were among the first of more than 70 national lawmakers scheduled to speak before the council votes on competing resolutions on the humanitarian impact of the war. More than 60 people got feedback before the meeting was postponed until Thursday morning.

Kisletsya said the Ukraine-backed General Assembly resolution focused on the need to alleviate suffering and “an immediate cessation of hostilities by the Russian Federation.”

“The intent of the initiators and co-sponsors of the draft resolution is to ensure that words are translated into immediate action on the ground,” he said. “It will be very important to prevent spillover effects on the entire world,” which is why the text mentions the impact of conflict on food and energy security, especially for the least developed countries.

Nebenzia warned that the adoption of this project “will make resolving the situation in Ukraine more difficult.” This is because it is likely to encourage Ukrainian negotiators and “push them to maintain the current unrealistic situation, which is not related to the situation on the ground, nor to the need to address the root causes” of Russia’s military action, he said.

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Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but have the effect of expressing international opinion.

The Ukraine-backed project reiterates the demand for the March 2 resolution adopted by the Assembly that Russia immediately cease its military offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all its forces, and demands that all civilians and infrastructure indispensable to their survival be protected.

The draft denounces the “grave humanitarian consequences” of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, which it says is “on a scale not seen by the international community in Europe for decades.” It also denounces Russia’s bombing, air strikes and “siege” of densely populated cities, particularly the southern city of Mariupol, and demands unhindered humanitarian access.

The South African project calls for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” as a first step in improving the deteriorating humanitarian situation and encourages “political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means aimed at achieving lasting peace”. He did not mention Russian aggression.

The defeated Russian resolution called for the protection of civilians “in fragile situations” in Ukraine and a safe passage for humanitarian aid and people seeking to leave the country, but it never mentioned the war.

He endorsed the UN Secretary-General’s call for dialogue and negotiations and urged a negotiated ceasefire to quickly evacuate “all civilians”. It also stressed “the need for the concerned parties to agree on humanitarian pauses for this purpose”, without specifying the “concerned parties”.

Russian authorities maintain that they did not start the war, and have repeatedly denounced reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian deaths in Ukraine as fake news. State media and government officials insist that Russian forces target only military facilities.

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