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UN condemns Russia’s ‘attempted illegal annexation’ of four Ukraine regions; Zelenskyy, Biden applaud vote

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution Wednesday that recognizes the territorial integrity of Ukraine and condemned Russia for its “illegal” attempts to annex four Ukrainian regions. The resolution also called for Russia to reverse the annexations.

The 193-member international body voted 143-5 to back Ukraine’s pre-annexation borders, a decision Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Biden applauded.

“The protection of the territorial integrity of Ukraine is the protection of the entire international legal order, starting from the UN Charter,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

Live video monitors show United Nations Ambassador from Russia, Vasily Nebenzya, addressing the U.N. General Assembly before a vote on a resolution condemning Russia's illegal referendum in Ukraine, Wednesday Oct. 12, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. 

Live video monitors show United Nations Ambassador from Russia, Vasily Nebenzya, addressing the U.N. General Assembly before a vote on a resolution condemning Russia’s illegal referendum in Ukraine, Wednesday Oct. 12, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. 
(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

He added: “Various potential aggressors in the world are now watching the reaction of democracies to the farce arranged by Russia with sham referenda and attempted annexation.”

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The five countries that voted against the measure included Russia, Nicaragua, and Syria. Dissenters also included Belarus, which is assisting Russia in its ongoing invasion, and North Korea (officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).

There were 35 formal abstentions in the vote.

Iran, who is providing kamikaze drones that Russia is using in Ukraine, did not vote.

Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, called the vote “amazing” and “a historic moment.”

United Nations Ambassador from Russia, Vasily Nebenzya, second from left, address the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 12, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. 

United Nations Ambassador from Russia, Vasily Nebenzya, second from left, address the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 12, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. 
(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Oleskii Makeiev, another Ukrainian ambassador said the result of the UN resolution was a “clear vote of solidarity of the world with Ukraine.”

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President Biden said the vote demonstrated the world “is more united and more determined than ever to hold Russia accountable for its violations.”

It is “a clear message” that “Russia cannot erase a sovereign state from the map” and it “cannot change borders by force,” he added.

European Union Ambassador Olof Skoog called it “a great success” that sends “a resounding message to Russia that they are and remain isolated.”

Ahead of the vote, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the assembly that the United Nations was initially established following World War II on an idea “that never again would one country be allowed to take another’s territory by force.”

“The resolution also sends an enormously important signal to Moscow and to everyone: It does not matter if you as a nation are big or small, rich or poor, old or new. If you are a U.N. member state, your borders are your own and are protected by international law,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “They cannot be redrawn by anyone else by force.”

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United Nations Ambassador from United States Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Oct. 12, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. 

United Nations Ambassador from United States Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Oct. 12, 2022 at U.N. headquarters. 
(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Looking forward, Zelenskyy suggested peace with Russia is not possible with President Vladimir Putin at its helm.

“Now one person is blocking peace and this person is in Moscow,” he said in a nightly address.

“Now, while we have no opportunity for diplomacy because this Russian leader only believes in terror, we need defense support. It is on the battlefield that peace is gained,” he added.

The General Assembly previously held a vote on March 2 to demand an immediate Russian cease-fire, withdrawal of all its troops and protection for all civilians. It passed 141-5 with 35 abstentions.

Later that same month, on March 24, the assembly overwhelmingly supported a resolution blaming Russia for Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis and urging an immediate cease-fire. It passed 140-5 with 38 abstentions.

Ukraine’s government estimates Russia has lost about 63,800 troops in during its invasion, which started on Feb. 24.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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