UN General Assembly demands Russian reparations from Ukraine

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UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations General Assembly on Monday approved a resolution calling on Russia to be held accountable for violating international law by invading Ukraine, including paying reparations for the extensive damage caused to the country and for Ukrainians killed and injured in the war.

Voting in the 193-member global body was 94 to 14 with 73 abstentions. It was close to the lowest level of support for five Ukraine-related resolutions passed by the General Assembly since Russia invaded its smaller neighbor on February 24.

The resolution recognizes the need to establish “an international mechanism of reparation for damage, loss or injury” resulting from Russia’s “unlawful acts” against Ukraine.

It recommends that member countries of the assembly, in cooperation with Ukraine, create “an international registry” to document claims and information about damage, loss or injury caused to Ukrainians and the government by Russia.

Ahead of the vote, Ukraine’s UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told the gathering that “Russia did its best to destroy Ukraine – in a very literal sense.”

He cited Russia’s shelling and shelling of towns and villages since day one, “targeting everything from factories and factories to residential buildings, schools, hospitals and kindergartens”, as well as roads, bridges, railways and nearly half of the Ukrainian power grid and utilities in the last month alone. He also cited accounts of atrocities committed by Russians in the territory he occupied, including murder, rape, torture, forced deportation and looting.

“Ukraine will have the heavy task of rebuilding the country and recovering from this war,” Kyslytsya said. “But this recovery will never be complete without a sense of justice for the victims of the Russian war.”

“It’s time to hold Russia accountable,” he said.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia urged members of the Assembly to vote against the resolution, calling it “an attempt to legalize something which, from the point of view of existing international law, cannot be legalized”. It is “legally null and void”, he said.

Nebenzia accused the West of “doing everything it can to provide a veneer of legitimacy” to start spending frozen – or indeed “stolen Russian assets amounting to billions of dollars”. And he accused the West of seeking a General Assembly decision “as a screen to hide this open flight” whose “beneficiaries will end up being Western military corporations”.

He warned that the resolution’s approval “can only increase tension and instability around the world”, and said that the resolution’s supporters “will be implicated in the illegal expropriation of the sovereign assets of a third country”.

Russia’s veto power in the 15-member Security Council has prevented the UN’s most powerful body from taking action since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion. But there is no veto in the General Assembly, which has previously passed four resolutions criticizing the Russian invasion.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they reflect world opinion and have demonstrated widespread opposition to Russian military action.

The resolution adopted Monday was sponsored by Canada, Guatemala, the Netherlands and Ukraine and co-sponsored by dozens of others.

It reaffirms the General Assembly’s attachment to the “sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity” of Ukraine and reiterates its request to Russia to “immediately cease its use of force against the ‘Ukraine’ and to withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territory.

It also expresses “its grave concern over the loss of life, the displacement of civilians, the destruction of infrastructure and natural resources, the loss of public and private property and the economic calamity caused by the aggression of the Federation of Russia against Ukraine”.

The resolution recalls that Article 14 of the Charter of the United Nations authorizes the General Assembly to “recommend measures for the peaceful settlement of any situation … which it deems likely to prejudice the general well-being of friendly relations between nations”, including breaches of the Charter.

It also refers to a General Assembly resolution adopted on 16 December 2005, entitled “Basic principles and guidelines on the right to a remedy and reparation for victims of gross violations of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law”.

Shortly after the Russian invasion, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution on March 2 demanding an immediate Russian ceasefire, the withdrawal of all its troops and the protection of all civilians by a vote of 141 votes against 5 with 35 abstentions.

On March 24, the assembly voted 140 to 5 with 38 abstentions on a resolution blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and calling for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of millions of civilians and homes, schools and hospitals essential to their survival.

Monday’s vote was close to the lowest vote for a Ukraine resolution: the assembly voted 93-24 with 58 abstentions on April 7 to suspend Russia from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council on allegations of Russian soldiers in Ukraine engaged in rights abuses that the United Nations States and Ukraine have called war crimes.

The assembly voted overwhelmingly – 143 to 5 with 35 abstentions – on October 12 to condemn Russia’s “illegal annexation attempt” of four Ukrainian regions and demand its immediate overthrow, a sign of strong opposition world to seven-sevenths. month-long war and Moscow’s attempt to seize territory from its neighbour.

The vote in the 193-member global body was 143 to 5 with 35 abstentions. It is the General Assembly’s strongest support for Ukraine and against Russia of the four resolutions it has approved since Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24.

This story corrects the fact that the vote was close to the lowest but not the lowest for a Russian-Ukrainian resolution.

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