- Resolution wins support from 141 of the 193-member United Nations General Assembly
The UN General Assembly on Wednesday overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that "demands" Russia "immediately" withdraw from Ukraine, in a powerful rebuke of Moscow's invasion by a vast majority of the world's nations.
Japan and New Zealand led condemnation from Asia, but the continent's giants -- China, India, and Pakistan -- all abstained. During the debate, Beijing had stressed the world had "nothing to gain" from a new Cold War.
Pakistan skips resolution
While abstaining from the vote, Pakistan underscored the need for a diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, hoping that talks initiated between the two countries in Belarus would bring about an end to hostilities.
“Pakistan remains deeply concerned at the recent turn of events. This reflects a failure of diplomacy,” Ambassador Munir Akram said.
In his remarks at the special session – the eleventh called since the founding of the United Nations – Ambassador Akram said Prime Minister Imran Khan had regretted the latest situation between Russia and Ukraine and had hoped that diplomacy could avert military conflict.
“We have since repeatedly stressed the need for de-escalation, renewed negotiations, sustained dialogue, and continuous diplomacy,” the Pakistani envoy said.
“All efforts must be made to avoid further escalation of violence and loss of life as well as military, political and economic tensions, which can pose an unprecedented threat to international peace and security and global economic stability.
“As consistently underlined by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the developing countries are hit the hardest economically by conflict anywhere,” he said.
“We hope the talks initiated between representatives of the Russian Federation and Ukraine will succeed in bringing about a cessation of hostilities and normalization of the situation.
“A diplomatic solution in accordance with relevant multilateral agreements, international law, and provisions of the UN Charter is indispensable,” the Pakistan envoy added.
Ambassador Akram also voiced concern about the safety and welfare of Pakistani citizens and students in Ukraine, noting that the majority of them had been evacuated and that those who remain would move out soon.
“We appreciate the cooperation of the Ukrainian authorities as well as the Polish, Romanian and Hungarian governments in this context,” the Pakistani envoy said.
After more than two days of extraordinary debate which saw the Ukrainian ambassador accuse Russia of genocide, 141 out of 193 member states voted for the non-binding resolution.
The resolution "deplores" the invasion of Ukraine "in the strongest terms" and condemns President Vladimir Putin's decision to put his nuclear forces on alert.
The vote had been touted by diplomats as a bellwether of democracy in a world where autocracy is on the rise in countries from Myanmar to Venezuela and came as Putin's forces bear down on Kyiv while terrified Ukrainians flee.
"They have come to deprive Ukraine of the very right to exist," Ukraine's ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the Assembly ahead of the vote.
"It's already clear that the goal of Russia is not an occupation only. It is genocide."
Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Moscow has pleaded "self-defense" under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
But that has been roundly rejected by Western countries who accuse Moscow of violating Article 2 of the Charter, requiring UN members to refrain from the threat or use of force to resolve a crisis.
The text of the resolution -- led by European countries in coordination with Ukraine -- has undergone numerous changes in recent days.
It no longer "condemns" the invasion as initially expected, but instead "deplores in the strongest terms the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine."
'Who will be next?'
It also makes clear the United Nations is "condemning" Putin's decision to put his nuclear forces on alert, a move that ignited an immediate outcry from the West.
Nearly every General Assembly speaker unreservedly condemned the war and the risks of military escalation.
"If the United Nations has any purpose, it is to prevent war," the US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said during her speech on Wednesday.
She accused Russia of "preparing to increase the brutality of its campaign."
"We've seen videos of Russian forces moving exceptionally lethal weaponry into Ukraine, which has no place on the battlefield that includes cluster munitions and vacuum bombs, which are banned under the Geneva Convention," Thomas-Greenfield said.
Russia's ally Belarus offered a staunch defense of the invasion, however.
Ambassador Valentin Rybakov blasted sanctions imposed by the West on Russia as "the worst example of economic and financial terrorism."
And he followed other Russian allies such as Syria in condemning the "double standards" of Western nations who have invaded countries including Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan in recent decades.
Other speakers cited fears of a domino effect should Ukraine fall to Russia. Colombia railed against any return to "empire," while Albania wondered: "Who will be next?"
From the Arab world it was Kuwait, itself the victim of an invasion by Iraq in 1990, whose denunciation of Moscow was the most explicit, with the rest of the Middle East remaining in the background.
On the meeting's sidelines, Washington has taken aim at Russians working at the United Nations, leveling accusations of espionage and demanding expulsions.
US President Joe Biden asserted Tuesday in his State of the Union address that Putin had underestimated the response to the invasion.
"He rejected efforts at diplomacy... And, he thought he could divide us here at home," Biden said.
"Putin was wrong. We were ready."