(CNSNews.com) – The U.N. General Assembly on Monday approved a resolution supporting the establishment of an international mechanism “for reparation for damage, loss or injury” arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The issue proved to be divisive, however, with the number of countries in favor significantly smaller than in the last vote on a resolution relating to the conflict.
The measure, sponsored by Canada, Guatemala, Netherlands, and Ukraine with support from many others, passed by 94 votes to 14, with 73 member-states abstaining.
By contrast, an October 12 vote on a General Assembly resolution condemning the Kremlin’s purported annexation of four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine passed by 143-5, with 35 abstentions.
The vote in New York, which came hours before the opening of the G20 summit in Bali, saw five members of that group – Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and well as the host nation, Indonesia – abstain. G20 members Russia and China were among the 14 “no” votes.
The resolution expresses the assembly’s “grave concern at the loss of life, civilian displacement, destruction of infrastructure and natural resources, loss of public and private property, and economic calamity caused by the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.”
It recognizes “the need for the establishment, in cooperation with Ukraine, of an international mechanism for reparations for damage, loss or injury” to Ukrainians, and recommends the creation of an international register to serve as a documentary record of evidence and claims.
Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia said the West was trying to provide “a veneer of legitimacy” to attempts to spend billions of dollars of frozen or “stolen” Russian assets – not for the benefit of Ukraine but to fund its future and past provision of weapons to Kyiv.
He warned that member-states backing the resolution would “become implicated in illegal expropriation of sovereign assets of a third country.”
Nebenzia also said the countries pushing for the resolution have a history of “looting the rest of the world,” citing slavery, colonialism, oppression, military intervention, and unilateral sanctions.
“The countries of the West never considered reparations as a way of atoning for their own sins.”
Canadian Ambassador Bob Rae said Russia’s claim that the initiative is “some systematic Western plot to steal the assets of sovereign states is just complete balderdash. It’s nonsense, and we have to have the courage to say it.”
The effect of the Russian aggression, Rae said, is “the destruction of life, liberty, property in a country called Ukraine, which is a real place, which is a real country. And like all countries and all members of this assembly, it deserves support.”
“And we’re not doing it for Ukraine alone,” he said. “There are member-states here who said ‘this is all very far away and has nothing to do with us.’ Well, I’m sorry. The crimes that are committed against the least of us are the crimes that are committed against all of us.”
Several countries, among them the abstaining G20 members Brazil, India, and Indonesia, voiced concern about the legal basis for the measure and the precedent being set, since the envisaged damages register would be set up outside the framework and supervision of the U.N.
A number of delegates picked on the points made by Russia about reparations for slavery and colonialism, pointing out that Western nations, including sponsors of the resolution, oppose such reparations.
Pakistan’s representative characterized this as “double standards” at play.
Kenyan delegate said countries sponsoring Monday’s resolution should in the future be ready to heed “calls for accountability for historical injustices, including reparations for slavery and colonialism, through concrete and restorative measures, including the establishment of an inclusive international register of damages.”
(Pakistan abstained in Monday’s vote, while Kenya voted in favor.)
In addition to Russia, the “no” votes came from the Bahamas, Belarus, Central African Republic, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Mali, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria, and Zimbabwe.
It was the fifth resolution relating to the conflict passed by the General Assembly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Unlike those adopted by the U.N. Security Council, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding. But any Security Council response to the war has been stymied by Russia’s veto, or threat of veto.
The previous resolutions were:
Mar. 2: Condemning the Russian invasion; passed by 141 votes to 5, with 35 abstentions
Mar. 24: Blaming the “dire” humanitarian situation on Russia; passed by 140 votes to 5, with 38 abstentions
Apr. 7: Expelling Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council; passed by 93 votes to 24, with 58 abstentions
Oct. 12: Condemning Putin’s attempted annexation of Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk; passed by 143-5, with 35 abstentions.
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