UN General Assembly again calls for Russian ceasefire

Russia's Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on March 24, 2022.

By an overwhelming majority of 140 votes, the United Nations General Assembly adopted, on Thursday 24 March, a new resolution which “requires” from Russia one stop ” immediate “ of the war in Ukraine and calls for the full protection of civilians – “humanitarian personnel, journalists, women and children included”. For Moscow, it is a second defeat at the UN in forty-eight hours, after almost the entire Security Council had abstained the day before from voting on a resolution “humanitarian” proposed by Russia – only China having voted alongside it. And this, while Russian diplomats have continued to beef up their offensive in recent days, sowing confusion around respect for humanitarian law in Ukraine.

“Russian soldiers have created humanitarian nightmares, said Louis Charbonneau, the United Nations advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, after Thursday’s vote. Member states must now consider concrete steps to hold Russia accountable for war crimes committed by its military. »

Politicization of aid

It was only four days after the start of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, on February 24, that Emmanuel Macron urged the UN to come out in favor of the protection of civilians. At the Security Council, France and Mexico draft a resolution, but they are quickly overtaken by the usual deadlocks: Russia denounces a “politicization” of humanitarian aid and refuses to mention a “ceasefire”. The Council will lose fifteen days, but will not risk a new Russian veto: it transfers the file to the Assembly, whose texts voted do not have the binding value of its own, but weigh symbolically.

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Isolated at first sight, since 141 countries demanded a ceasefire on March 2, Russia then tried to blur the appearances. She presents her own text “humanitarian” in the Council, in which it does not mention itself or call for a cessation of hostilities. Western countries, outraged, cry out for indecency and compare it to an arsonist firefighter.

Likewise, while the American president, Joe Biden, and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, are to call each other the next day, Beijing indicates that it does not want to position itself. The Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, thus withdrew his text from the vote for the first time on 17 March. He has since continued to brandish this text as a threat, activating and deactivating the voting process on several occasions. “Each time, it takes up the resources of the missions here in New York”, explains in an exhausted voice a Western diplomat. Moscow plays the war of nerves in the Security Council.

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