U.N. vote a sign world opinion is against Moscow’s barbaric acts

If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and acts of brutality are allowed to go unchecked, expansion of territory through force could become the norm. The latest U.N. General Assembly resolution clearly shows the strong sense of crisis that prevails among the international community.

U.N. members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution that condemns Russia’s attempt to unilaterally annex four Ukrainian regions and declares the annexation invalid.

The resolution states that Russia and pro-Russian officials in the four regions forced the holding of “referendums” and that there is “no validity under international law” in regard to Moscow’s attempt at an illegal land grab. The motion also demanded the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine.

Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are not legally binding. Even so, it is significant that Russia’s claims that the majority of residents in the regions supported annexation were so thoroughly rejected.

Of the 193 U.N. member states, 143 supported the resolution, including Japan, the United States, Britain, France and Germany. That exceeded the 141 votes in favor when the General Assembly adopted a resolution in March condemning the Russian invasion. Only five countries cast votes against, including Russia and North Korea.

As Russia — a permanent Security Council member that is supposed to bear the responsibility for maintaining world peace — tramples on the U.N. Charter that prohibits the expansion of territory by force, it seems that many countries are becoming acutely aware of the importance of maintaining international order.

Singapore’s ambassador to the United Nations stressed that for small countries, the principles of international law provide the basis for their survival.

Still, 35 nations abstained, including China and India. These countries should be aware that such ambivalence leads to a denial of the principle of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Russia has been showering the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and many other cities around the country with missiles. Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that the strikes are retaliation for the Oct. 8 explosion that damaged the Crimean Bridge, which links the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine.

However, Crimea is Ukrainian territory. Russia unilaterally annexed it in 2014. The bridge is used as a key supply artery for Russian troops and thus could be a military target. There is no justification for unleashing indiscriminate strikes against Ukraine or “retaliation.”

It has been pointed out that as Russia struggles against a Ukrainian counteroffensive, morale among its troops is low and it is facing a shortage of weapons.

Putin’s words and actions can be seen as a chink in his armor, an indication of his shock over the damage to the bridge — a symbol of his country’s control of Crimea — and his desperation to display a hard-line stance to the public amid his military’s setbacks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called for an expansion of support in the form of air defense systems to intercept Russian missiles. To stop Moscow’s barbaric acts, the United States and European countries must help Ukraine boost its defense system while at the same time avoiding the risk of a nuclear war.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 14, 2022)