The United Nations will face three resolutions Wednesday on the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine after Russia decided to call for a vote on its Security Council resolution that makes no mention of its attack on its smaller neighbor.
The General Assembly is scheduled to start considering two rival resolutions Wednesday morning — one supported by Ukraine and Western nations that makes clear Russia is responsible for the escalating humanitarian crisis and the other sponsored by South Africa that doesn’t mention Russia.
The Security Council will vote on the third resolution, which is sponsored by Russia and widely criticized for not referring to its invasion of Ukraine. Russia had canceled a council vote on the measure last Friday as diplomats predicted it would be overwhelmingly defeated, with many abstentions and very few “yes” votes when at least nine are needed for approval along with no vetoes.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, told reporters Tuesday that Russia had now asked for a vote Wednesday. It was scheduled to be held after the Security Council’s scheduled meeting Wednesday morning on its cooperation with the Arab League.
Polyansky said if Western nations don’t support the Russian resolution it will be “a reflection of their hypocrisy” and refusal to support a purely humanitarian measure “without any politicization,” just like other humanitarian resolutions adopted by the 15-mmber council.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield countered that Russia canceled Friday’s vote on its resolution “because they knew that they didn’t have support for that resolution.” She said there is still no support.
France and Mexico decided to take their humanitarian resolution to the 193-member General Assembly after Russia made clear after two weeks of negotiations in the Security Council that it would veto their draft. It makes clear the aid crisis is a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A letter sent to the assembly president Monday from the two countries and 20 others, including Ukraine and the United States, asked for a resumption of the General Assembly’s special session on Wednesday to put the resolution to a vote.
South African on Monday circulated a rival draft resolution that is similar to the Russian text before the Security Council and makes no mention of Russia’s aggression. It was sent to the General Assembly on Tuesday.
The South African draft calls for “an immediate cessation of hostilities” as a first step in ameliorating the deteriorating humanitarian situation and encourages “political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means aimed at achieving lasting peace.”
According to the speakers list obtained Tuesday night by The Associated Press, 61 countries planned to address the assembly on the matter. That meant the vote could take place Wednesday evening or Thursday.
The first two speakers were Ukraine, to present the Western-backed resolution it supports and helped draft, and South Africa,
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but there are no vetoes and they do have clout in reflecting international opinion.
The US ambassador said supporters of the French-Mexican resolution hoped to get the same vote for the draft as for a resolution adopted by the assembly March 2 that demanded an immediate halt to Russia’s military action in Ukraine and withdrawal of all its forces. That resolution passed 141-5, with 35 abstentions, and was hailed by supporters as a demonstration of Russia’s global isolation.
“Russia is the aggressor here and it is absolutely unconscionable for Russia to think that they can put forward a humanitarian resolution,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “What Russia needs to do is stop fighting. It needs to stop killing Ukrainians. It needs to stop attacking civilians and forcing people from their homes and creating a humanitarian crisis.”
The French-Mexican draft resolution reiterates the March 2 demand for Russia to immediately stop its military offensive in Ukraine and withdraw all its troops, and it demands protection for all civilians and infrastructure indispensable to their survival.
The draft deplores the “dire humanitarian consequences” of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine which it says “are on a scale that the international community has not seen in Europe in decades.” And it deplores Russia’s shelling, airstrikes and “besiegement” of densely populated cities, particularly the southern city of Mariupol.
The proposed resolution strongly condemns attacks directed at civilians and “civilian objects,” including evacuation convoys, and demands that all parties “protect civilians fleeing armed conflict and violence.” It further demands unhindered access for aid workers, including their transport, supplies and equipment.
Russia’s proposed humanitarian resolution, circulated a day after France and Mexico announced they would take their draft to the General Assembly, doesn’t refer to the war at all. It just calls for protection of civilians “in vulnerable situations” and safe passage for humanitarian aid and people seeking to leave Ukraine.
It endorses UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for dialogue and negotiations and urges a negotiated cease-fire to rapidly evacuate “all civilians.”
Russia’s draft further says there is a “need for the parties concerned to agree on humanitarian pauses to this end,” while never identifying the parties concerned.
Russian authorities maintain they did not start the war and have repeatedly and falsely decried reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian deaths in Ukraine as fake news. State media outlets and government officials insist Russian troops target only military facilities.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.