China Votes With Russia As UN Security Council Smacks Down Ukraine Motion

The United Nations Security Council defeated a draft resolution by Russia that called attention to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine but failed to mention its role as the aggressor, with China casting the sole supporting vote in favor of the vague text, which was roundly censured by other delegates.

Wednesday's session in New York took place as the war in Ukraine entered its 29th day. The motion demanded the protection of civilians as well as humanitarian corridors, but members of the council saw it as an attempt by Moscow to absolve itself of responsibility for greatly escalating the conflict.

Russia required a minimum of nine "yes" votes and no vetoes for the draft to be adopted. Permanent members France, the United Kingdom and the United States abstained, along with remaining non-permanent council members Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway and the United Arab Emirates.

Zhang Jun, the ambassador from China who sided with Russia in casting the only "yes" votes, framed his support as emphasizing the need to address the crisis with a consensus on humanitarian grounds, even if political differences remained. He did not deviate from Beijing's position of not describing the military campaign as a war or an invasion, nor did he mention Russia's role as the initiator of the conflict.

UNSC Rejects Russia's Humanitarian Resolution On Ukraine
Members of the United Nations Security Council vote on a draft resolution introduced by Russia at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on March 23, 2022. The Security Council defeated the draft resolution that highlighted the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine without naming Russia as the aggressor. David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

"It is the shared wish of the international community for an immediate cease-fire, which is also China's strong expectation," said Zhang. "It is regrettable that the Security Council was unable to reach the broadest possible agreement in the end."

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who said the American and British delegations had "torpedoed" an earlier draft that had also failed to condemn Moscow, said the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine would only worsen as a result of the council's failure to adopt his text.

"It will allow the Ukrainian side to keep ignoring the demands for a cease-fire needed to evacuate people via humanitarian passages. Kyiv will continue using civilians as a 'human shield' and, contrary to international humanitarian law, placing heavy armaments in the vicinity of hospitals and kindergartens," Nebenzia said.

His view was not shared by the vast majority of the other members present at the session, which also considered two competing resolutions that will be put to the UN General Assembly on Thursday. Both texts relate to the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine, but one mentions Russia's part as the invading party while the other does not. Moscow is expected to vote in favor of the latter.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Russian delegation had attempted to use the Security Council vote as cover for its actions. "It really is unconscionable that Russia would have the audacity to put forward a resolution asking the international community to solve a humanitarian crisis that Russia alone created," she said.

"Russia is the aggressor, the attacker, the invader—the sole party in Ukraine engaged in a campaign of brutality against the people of Ukraine—and they want us to pass a resolution that does not acknowledge their culpability," said Thomas-Greenfield, whose remarks were echoed by others.

In a tweet she said: "The Security Council speaks in many languages, but tonight, we sent a unified message on Russia's absurd resolution. Russia must end its attacks on Ukraine now."

Ferit Hoxha, Albania's permanent representative, was equally scathing, saying Russia did not need to propose a resolution for a cease-fire it could achieve by itself. "We did not fall for such a trap; we did not accept such a mockery.

"Russia is the sole and unique cause of this terrible humanitarian situation it created out of its obsession. It cannot share this responsibility with the victim, Ukraine, or anyone else," Hoxha said.

Meanwhile, Ghana's Ambassador Harold Agyeman offered comments that relied on the credible voice of fellow UN member states, which had already condemned Russia earlier in March and demanded a full withdrawal of its forces from within Ukraine's internationally recognized borders.

Ghana did not believe that Russia's resolution "spoke to the settled position of the international community on the cause of this humanitarian catastrophe, nor the requirement for an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities," Agyeman said. He was referring to the March 2 vote in the UN General Assembly, where 141 nations voted to reprimand Russia for invading Ukraine and 35 countries, including China, abstained. Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea voted against.

Barbara Woodward, the U.K.'s ambassador to the UN, told reporters that the text submitted by Moscow was a "cynical effort by Russia to exploit the crisis which they have caused."

"Their resolution called for respect for international humanitarian law, but overlooked the fact that they are committing war crimes. Their resolution called for the protection of women and children, but overlooked the fact that they had bombed the hospital in Mariupol, and the theater in Mariupol," she said.

"Their resolution did not call for the one thing that would work, which is that Russia needs to stop its invasion of Ukraine," Woodward said.

The UN Refugee Agency estimates more than 3.5 million of Ukraine's 44 million people have fled the country since Russia's bombardments began on February 24. Another 6.5 million have been internally displaced by the war, meaning one in four people have been uprooted by the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said 100,000 people in the besieged city of Mariupol have been left without food, water or electricity. Local authorities estimate more than 2,400 civilians have died in the past month.