Russia-Ukraine war: India abstained while Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution tabled by the US and Albania that would have condemned Moscow's “illegal referenda” and declared its annexation of four Ukrainian territories as invalid, with New Delhi citing the "totality of the evolving situation” as the reason for its abstention.
The 15-nation UN Security Council voted on Friday on the draft resolution on “Illegal So-Called Referenda in Ukraine”, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a ceremony in the Kremlin, signed treaties to annex the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
The resolution failed to get adopted as permanent UNSC member Russia vetoed it. It was supported by 10 of the 15 members of the Council, while China, Gabon, India and Brazil abstained.
Addressing the Council after the vote, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj, said that India is deeply disturbed by the recent turn of developments in Ukraine and New Delhi has always advocated that no solution can ever arrive at the cost of human lives.
"We urge that all efforts are made by concerned sides for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities. Dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment,” she said in the explanation of the vote.
“The path to peace requires us to keep all channels of diplomacy open,” she said. Underlining that India’s position has been clear and consistent from the very beginning of this conflict, Kamboj said the global order is anchored on the principles of the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of all states.
“Escalation of rhetoric or tensions is in no one’s interest. It is important that pathways are found for a return to the negotiating table. Keeping in view the totality of the evolving situation, India has decided to abstain on this resolution,” she said.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said before the vote that the outcomes of Russia’s “sham referenda were pre-determined” in Moscow.
"Everybody knows it. They were held behind the barrel of Russian guns. Time and time again we have seen the Ukrainian people fight for their country and their democracy,” she said.
“Earlier today, we saw Putin celebrate this clear violation of international law. He threw a party on Red Square to pat himself on the back for these illegal referenda. He is gloating and reminiscing about the Soviet empire and stated that this was just the beginning. As we all sit in this chamber and solemnly consider this resolution, Putin is instead boastfully shoving our shared values in our faces,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
She said if Russia chooses to shield itself from accountability, then "we will take further steps in the General Assembly” to send an unmistakable message to Moscow that the world is still on the side of defending sovereignty and protecting territorial integrity.
Russia’s Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia said before the vote that the results of the referendum speak for themselves and that the residents of these regions do not want to return to Ukraine.
"They have made an informed and free choice in favor of our country,” he said, adding that the referendums were carried out in full conformity with the norms and principles of international law.
He added that more than 100 international observers from Italy, Germany, Venezuela, Latvia, and other states, who monitored the voting, also recognised the results to be legitimate.
“Washington which today is the loudest to criticise us and to speak of the territorial integrity of Ukraine recently declared that they were willing to use force to protect Taiwan which is an integral part of the People's Republic of China,” he said.
Nebenzia said treaties have been signed on the accession of these new regions into the Russian Federation.
“There will be no turning back as today's draft resolution would try to impose,” he said.
The resolution would have condemned Russia’s organisation of “illegal so-called referenda” in regions within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders.
It would have declared that Russia’s "unlawful actions” with regards to the illegal so-called referenda taken on September 23 to 27 in parts of Ukraine’s regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya that are under Russia’s temporary control "can have no validity and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine, including any purported annexation of any of these regions by the Russian Federation.”
The resolution would have also called upon all States, international organisations and specialised agencies not to recognise any purported acquisition by Russia of any or all of Ukraine’s regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson or Zaporizhzhya, and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognising any such purported acquisition.
Kamboj said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “unequivocally conveyed” the importance of dialogue and diplomacy in his discussions with world leaders, including Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. She also referred to statements made by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Ukraine during the high-level General Assembly session last week.
Referring to Modi’s remark to Putin on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Uzbekistan's Samarkand last month that “today's era is not an era of war”, Kamboj said New Delhi sincerely hopes for an early resumption of peace talks to bring about an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the conflict.
India has previously abstained on two occasions in the Security Council and once in the General Assembly on resolutions on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Unlike many other leading Western powers, India has not yet criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and it abstained from the votes at the UN platforms in condemning the Russian aggression.
India faced flak from US lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, for choosing to abstain from UN votes to rebuke Russia's invasion of Ukraine. New Delhi has strong defence ties with Moscow.
In October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems to ramp up its air defence, despite a warning from the then-Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite US sanctions.
The US has already imposed sanctions on Turkey under the CAATSA for the purchase of a batch of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia.
Despite strong objections from the US and the threat of sanctions from the Biden administration, India has refused to make any changes in its decision and is going ahead with the purchase of the missile defence system.
India pursues an independent foreign policy and its defence acquisitions are guided by its national security interests, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in November last year.
Earlier, Russian President Putin on Friday proclaimed the annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
The announcement came a day after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that “any annexation of a State’s territory by another State resulting from the threat or use of force is a violation of the Principles of the UN Charter and international law.”
“Any decision to proceed with the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” Guterres said.
“It cannot be reconciled with the international legal framework. It stands against everything the international community is meant to stand for. It flouts the purposes and principles of the United Nations. It is a dangerous escalation. It has no place in the modern world. It must not be accepted,” the UN chief said.
The resolution would have also decided that Russia immediately cease its full-scale unlawful invasion of Ukraine and refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any Member State.
It would have also decided that Russia shall immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, which includes those regions addressed by the illegal so-called referenda, to enable a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine through political dialogue, negotiation, mediation or other peaceful means.