The United Nations General Assembly voted 141 to 5 on Wednesday in favor of a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion and which reaffirms Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
Known informally as the world’s “town hall” the General Assembly is where all 193 UN member states have a voice.
The vote on the nonbinding resolution, which demands an immediate halt to the Russian offensive, comes as Russian forces continue their deadly assault in key Ukrainian cities, prompting some local leaders to warn that their cities were near the breaking point.
Five countries – Belarus, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (more commonly known as North Korea) Eritrea, Russia and Syria – voted against it, while 35 abstained.
Assembly President Abdulla Shahid struggled to read the results of the vote as ambassadors stood up and applauded as soon as he began speaking.
“I join member states in expressing concern about ‘reports of attacks on civilian facilities such as residences, schools and hospitals, and of civilian casualties, including women, older persons, persons with disabilities, and children’,” said Shahid, who served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Maldives before he was elected as the 76th President of the United Nations General Assembly.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was duty-bound to stand by the resolution and be guided by its call.
“The message of the General Assembly is loud and clear: End hostilities in Ukraine now. Silence the guns now. Open the door to dialogue and diplomacy now,” Guterres said. “Looking ahead, I will continue to do everything in my power to contribute to an immediate cessation of hostilities and urgent negotiations for peace.”
For Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya, this was “a defining day,” recalling words from his statement in the Assembly.
“The UN is still alive and going through the process of catharsis,” Kyslytsya said. “I believe in the United Nations; now people in Ukraine have more reasons to believe in the United Nations.”
The mayor of Kherson noted in a statement the presence of armed visitors in a government meeting in the key port city — one that Russian state media said was controlled by Russian forces.
Earlier, videos from Kherson showed defiant people waving blue and yellow Ukrainian flags in front of Russian troops. Kherson’s mayor lamented the “enormous difficulties with the collection and burial of the dead, the delivery of food and medicine.”
As Russia faced stiff resistance from Ukrainian military and civilian defenders throughout the country, the capital, Kyiv, endured overnight attacks, according to military analysts.
A massive convoy of Russian tanks and combat vehicles remained stalled about 20 miles north of the city’s center as the invading force grappled with fuel and food shortages.
As militia forces set up roadblocks of branches, tires, concrete blocks and old cars, the city’s mayor warned residents on Telegram that Russian forces were coming “closer and closer to the capital.”
As the fighting raged in Ukrainian streets, President Biden told reporters Wednesday that it’s “clear” Russian forces are deliberately targeting civilian areas in Ukraine.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin “badly miscalculated” when he “sought to shake the very foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways.”
The resolution demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
It was sponsored by more than 90 countries and needed a two-thirds majority in the Assembly to pass.
The voting capped off a rare special emergency session of the General Assembly that began on Monday, during which countries took to the podium to declare their positions on the crisis, now entering a second week.