The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to reject Russia's "attempted illegal annexation" of four occupied territories in Ukraine, dealing a huge diplomatic blow to the Kremlin.
Three-quarters of the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a resolution urging nations and international organizations not to accept Russia's claim over four regions in southern and eastern Ukraine. Russia was joined by only Belarus, North Korea, Nicaragua, and Syria in voting against the resolution. The vote represents a blow for Moscow, which has attempted to overcome its international isolation since its February invasion of Ukraine.
The resolution is a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement on September 30 that the citizens of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhia voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. The United States and others decried the annexation as unlawful as Ukraine's military moved to reestablish authority over the areas.
In a speech to the assembly, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's permanent representative to the United Nations, stated that the resolution was about respecting the U.N. Charter's prohibition on one country from attacking another.
"Dear colleagues, the only thing that Russia is afraid of is our strong unity of purpose in defense of the U.N. Charter," he stated. "In defense of the right to every country to benefit from respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Russia's permanent U.N. representative, Vasily Nebenzia, had unsuccessfully requested a secret vote on the resolution. In his address to the assembly, he stated that the resolution breached U.N. processes and backed Russia's annexation, arguing that it protected the right to self-determination of Russian-speaking minorities in Ukraine.
He stated, "Here once again, we are being accused when we are trying to protect our brothers and sisters in eastern Ukraine,"
The vote on Wednesday was similar to a March vote by the United Nations General Assembly that demanded Russia immediately cease its military action against Ukraine.
Thirty-five countries, including India and Russian ally China, abstained from the voting. The remaining assembly members did not vote.
In a speech to the assembly, China's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Geng Shuang stated that the resolution would not bring either side to the bargaining table.
"What is urgent now is to guide the parties concerned to exercise restraint, avoid escalation of conflicts, prevent confrontation from getting out of control and deescalate the situation," he said. "Ultimately, the Ukraine situation must be settled by peaceful means. Regardless of how formidable the obstacles and challenges are, the door to political settlement must not be shut."
The majority of countries that abstained were from Africa. Putin and other Kremlin officials have sought out African leaders to strengthen trade and diplomatic ties amid Russia's heavy sanctions.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.