U.N. General Assembly demands protection for Ukrainians, chastises Russia over war

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March 24 (UPI) — A large majority of the United Nations General Assembly’s 193 member states voted in favor of demanding full protection for civilians and humanitarian access in Ukraine while chastising Russia for creating the crisis by invading its Eastern European neighbor.

During its 11th Emergency Special Session, 140 nations voted to adopt the non-enforceable resolution titled Humanitarian Consequences of the Aggression against Ukraine, which was drafted by the besieged nation and co-sponsored by 90 countries.

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Russia, Syria, North Korea, Eritrea and Belarus were the five nations to vote against the resolution with 38 others abstaining.

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“Today, once again, the world stood united — it stood united in the face of President [Vladimir] Putin’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, permanent representative of the United States to the U.N., said during a press conference following the meeting. “Together, a strong majority of U.N. member states made clear that Russia — Russia — bears sole responsibility for the grave humanitarian crisis and violence in Ukraine.”

Together, we called for the protection of all civilians fleeing the conflict and for steps to mitigate the increase in food insecurity caused by this senseless war. And together, we reaffirmed the U.N. Charter.”

The General Assembly had passed a resolution March 2 that condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a vote of 141-5, and Ukraine and its partners had hoped its second resolution would have increased support.

“There’s really is no difference between 141 and 140,” Thomas-Greenfield said as she described Thursday’s resolution as “an astounding success.”

“What I would say to the countries who abstained previously, is that there is no neutral ground here,” she said. “We’re watching every day what is happening in Ukraine, and we have to stand with the Ukrainian people.”

The resolution was passed as the war enters its second month.

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According to the United Nations, the war, which began Feb. 24, has created more than 3.6 million refugees with another 6.5 million being internally displaced in Ukraine, representing one-fourth of the country’s population.

The vote was held at the end of a second morning of deliberations on competing draft resolutions concerning Ukrainian’s humanitarian crisis, with the second having been tabled by South Africa that made no mention of Russia and referred to the humanitarian crisis as “emanating out of” the conflict.

Sixty-seven nations voted against it to 50 in favor with 36 abstentions after more than 60 delegations took to the floor to discuss the two resolutions.

“I can’t explain South African’s reasoning for presenting its own resolution,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “You have to ask the South Africans why they thought it was necessary.”

Mathu Joyini, South Africa’s representative to the U.N., explained they presented a resolution they felt vital that the General Assembly adopt as it placed the humanitarian crisis as the immediate priority.

She said during the deliberations that a humanitarian response has become second to geopolitical objectives.

Vassily Nebenzia, permanent representatives of Russia to the U.N., thanked South Africa for its resolution in a statement, stating the resolution that was adopted was anti-Russian.

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“I think there is no need to elaborate in detail why Russia voted against the draft pseudo-humanitarian resolution that was put forward by Western countries and Ukraine,” he said. “They needed some sort of a roll-call of those who are ready to subscribe to a lopsided interpretation of the situation. We appreciate all those who found courage to look at this in an independent manner.”

Though the resolution is not enforceable, Thomas-Greenfield said it will “absolutely” have an effect on the ground in Ukraine.

“It’s going to give encouragement to the Ukrainian people,” she said. “But even more importantly, I think it identifies for all of us what we need to do to support Ukraine with humanitarian assistance.”

The resolution was passed as U.S. President Joe Biden is in Europea for meetings with world leaders concerning the crisis.

Following a meetings with NATO and Group of Seven nations on Thursday, Biden announced an additional $1 billion in funding for humanitarian assistance for Ukraine as well as plans to accept up to 100,000 refugees.

Ukrainian service members stand beside a damaged building in a residential area after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI | License Photo