Security Council Fails to Adopt Resolution Condemning Moscow's Referenda in Ukraine’s Occupied Territories, as Permanent Member Employs Veto
Representative Calls 15-Member Organ ‘Broken Pillar’ of United Nations
Meeting today following Russian Federation President Vladimir V. Putin’s proclamation of Moscow’s annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the Security Council rejected a draft resolution intended to condemn the referenda that preceded it.
The draft, submitted by Albania and the United States, garnered support from 10 members but was vetoed by the Russian Federation. Brazil, China, Gabon and India all abstained.
Through the draft resolution, the 15-member Council would have also declared that the referenda taken on 23 to 27 September in parts of those regions are neither valid nor form the basis for any alteration of the status of these regions of Ukraine, including any purported annexation by the Russian Federation.
The draft would also have the Council call on all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of these Ukrainian regions, nor any purported acquisition thereof by the Russian Federation.
By other terms, the Council would have decided that the Russian Federation shall desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine in all areas within that country’s internationally recognized borders.
Further, the organ would have decided that the Russian Federation shall immediately cease its full-scale, unlawful invasion of Ukraine and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders to enable a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Speaking before the vote, the representative of the United States recalled that some people have said that the process leading to this draft resolution was rushed, but stressed that “what was rushed was Russia’s illegal act to annex Ukraine’s territory”. Underscoring that this issue is about collective security, she urged other Council members to vote in favour of the resolution in defence of international peace and security.
The representative of the Russian Federation, however, said that the Council has never adopted resolutions that directly condemn one of its members, adding that other Council members are pushing his delegation to use its veto so they can wax lyrical that the Russian Federation is abusing that right. “The results of the [referenda] speak for themselves — the residents of these regions do not want to return to Ukraine,” he said, emphasizing that the referenda were carried out in full conformity with international law.
Following the vote, Albania’s representative said that the Council was taken hostage by the Russian Federation’s misuse of its veto. Isolated in its actions and its positions, that country never wanted peace or dialogue, she stressed, underscoring that it only wanted the territory of Ukraine.
Urging both sides to work towards the immediate cessation of hostilities, the representative of India said that, as an escalation of rhetoric and tension is in no one’s interest, her country abstained on the draft resolution. China’s delegation also abstained, with that country’s representative stating that sanctions and political isolation will not bring peace and will only worsen the situation.
Brazil’s delegate stated that the text’s scope and language do not contribute to resolving the conflict, and Gabon’s representative called for good‑faith negotiations and dialogue to end the fighting and promote peaceful coexistence.
Ukraine’s representative then described the Council as a broken pillar of the United Nations, noting that other parts of the Organization are resolved to step in and exercise their potential. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will continue to do so, he underscored, and he characterized the Russian Federation’s presence on the Council as a cancerous tumour that should be removed before it metastasizes. “If the Council cannot act with Russia, it is its duty to act without it,” he stressed.
Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Norway, Ireland, Ghana, Mexico, Kenya, United Arab Emirates and France.
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 4:04 p.m.
Statements before Vote
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that the draft resolution that her country and Albania have put before the Security Council condemns the illegal so-called “referenda” held in Ukrainian territory, calls on all States not to recognize any alteration of Ukraine and requires that the Russian Federation withdraw its troops from that country immediately. Some people have said that the process leading to this draft resolution was rushed, but “what was rushed was Russia’s illegal act to annex Ukraine’s territory”. The Council must respond, as a Member State — one that is a Council member — is attempting to annex another Member State by force. The outcome of the sham referendums was predetermined in Moscow “and everyone knows it”. However, the Ukrainian people have demonstrated loud and clear that they will never accept subjugation to Russian rule, nor will the United States recognize the territory that the Russian Federation seeks to seize as anything other than part of Ukraine.
Everyone has an interest in defending the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, she said, adding that everyone understands the implications if these principles are tossed aside. This issue is bigger than any one nation; it is about collective security. The Council is the first line of defence for the Charter of the United Nations, and it must demonstrate that it can work despite the actions of one permanent member. “This is not a moment to stand on the sidelines,” she said. If the Russian Federation chooses to shield itself from accountability, then the United States will take further steps in the General Assembly to send Moscow an unmistakeable message that the world is still on the side of defending sovereignty and protecting territorial integrity. Recalling that the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, was seen celebrating this clear violation of international law earlier today, she said that the United States will vote in favour of the draft resolution, and urged other Council members to do likewise in defence of international peace and security.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that the Russian Federation’s annexations jeopardize prospects for peace and undermine the purpose and principles of the United Nations. Encompassing 90,000 square kilometres, they constitute the largest forcible annexation of territories since the Second World War. “There is no middle ground on this,” she said, adding that this is a simple question of principle, as the Secretary-General has stated. “As members of the Security Council, with a responsibility to maintain international peace and security, and to uphold the United Nations Charter, we must condemn Russia’s actions and vote in favour of the resolution,” she said.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the Council has never adopted resolutions which directly condemn one of its members. “Do you seriously expect Russia to consider and support such a draft?,” he said, adding that other Council members are pushing his delegation to use its veto, thus enabling them to wax lyrical that the Russian Federation is abusing that right. Referring to the recent referendums, he said that an overwhelming majority in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson supported their integration into the Russian Federation, despite the provocations of the Kyiv regime. The vote turnout ranged from 76 per cent in the Kherson region to 97 per cent in the Donetsk People’s Republic. “The results of the referendums speak for themselves — the residents of these regions do not want to return to Ukraine,” he said, emphasizing that the referendums were carried out in full conformity with international law.
Turning to the draft resolution, he said that the Council had an opportunity to adopt a truly balanced and useful document, as the Russian Federation had constructively proposed amendments regarding the territorial integrity of Member States and the principle of self-determination of peoples. Council members may assess the outcome of referendums differently, but who can argue with the fact that a free expression of the will of people is an essential element of a democratic society, he wondered. On referring the matter to the General Assembly, he hoped that Member States would form their own unbiased views of the situation and make the right choice.
The Council then rejected the text by a vote of 10 in favour to 1 against (Russian Federation), with 4 abstentions (Brazil, China, Gabon, India), owing to the negative vote of a permanent member of the Council.
Statements after Vote
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) said the Council was taken hostage and prevented from acting by the Russian Federation’s misuse of its veto. The proposed text concerned the fundamental issues and principles binding Member States in the United Nations, including the preservation of territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. Isolated in its actions and its positions, the Russian Federation never wanted peace or dialogue. Rather, it only wanted the territory of Ukraine. All States and international organizations must not recognize its acquisition of Ukrainian territory and must refrain from any action that could be interpreted as recognition. By firmly condemning such unacceptable behaviour and standing in defence and support of Ukraine, Member States are defending the rules-based international order, she said, vowing to continue the fight in the General Assembly.
MONA JUUL (Norway) said that her delegation voted in favour of the resolution, as the Council has the responsibility to prevent acts of aggression and breaches of territorial integrity. Expressing regret that the resolution was not adopted because of a single member’s veto, she said that it was wrong that the Russian Federation, an invading force, could prevent Council action aimed at ending its aggression. Whatever was announced in Moscow today is contrary to international law, has no legal effect and in no way changes Ukraine’s sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. The Russian Federation, as a permanent Council member, has a clear responsibility to respect the Charter of the United Nations, but its actions relating to Ukraine go against everything for which the United Nations stands. The Russian Federation is isolating itself from the global community, rejecting international law and ignoring the global consequences of its actions, she said, adding that it is “unacceptable” that the Council has once again been blocked from acting. The General Assembly, however, will have the opportunity to take up this grave and important issue, she said.
GENG SHUANG (China), stating that China abstained from the vote, said his country’s position is consistent and clear: sovereignty and territorial integrity must be safeguarded, and all parties’ legitimate security concerns must be taken seriously. Seven months on, the crisis has had considerable negative impacts. He expressed concern about the prospect of a long and protracted crisis and called for efforts to be made to de-escalate tensions and restart diplomatic negotiations. All viable options must be put on the table to achieve an early ceasefire and any action by the Council should aim to ease the situation rather than exacerbate confrontation. Sanctions and political isolation will not bring peace and will only worsen the situation, making it intractable, he said, adding that China will continue to play a constructive role to resolve the crisis.
Ms. WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that the Russian Federation is using its veto to defend its illegal actions. Council members voted in different ways, but not a single other member recognized the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. “Russia’s veto does not change that fact,” she said, adding that the announced accession of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions into the Russian Federation is a “fantasy” that has no legal effect. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is under attack and “the international system is being assaulted in front of our eyes”. The Russian Federation will not succeed in its actions, she said, expressing concern about how much damage will be done and how many lives will be wasted before Moscow comes to this realization.
FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland) said Ireland voted in favour out of its belief that the Council must have a robust response to the Russian Federation’s blatant breach of the Charter of the United Nations in its war of aggression. He reiterated Ireland’s full commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Recalling his earlier condemnation of the sham referenda in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, he categorically rejected the so-called results and announcements to annex Ukrainian territory. They have no legal effect and are nothing more than a blatant land-grab by the Russian Federation. He described that country’s use of its Council veto as shameful, reprehensible and an attempt to excuse its military action. Going forward, the international community will not be deterred from holding the Russian Federation accountable, he said, calling for the Council to submit a special report on the use of the veto in accordance with General Assembly resolution 76/262 (2021).
CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana), noting that her delegation voted in favour of the text, expressed regret at the “unsurprising outcome” of the vote. Once again, the offending State’s use of its veto stood in the way of the Council’s ability to exercise its mandate. The Russian Federation’s annexation of occupied territories within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders is illegal and constitutes a serious violation of that country’s sovereignty, she said, adding that it has no legal effect. She called on the Russian Federation to end its aggression against Ukraine, to refrain from further escalatory actions and to embrace a new chapter of peace.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico), recalling that his country has lost territory through annexation following invasion, underscored that it cannot consent to another State also suffering this type of aggression under any circumstances. Mexico’s position has remained clear in its unwavering respect for international law, especially the prohibition of territorial expansion through force. Pointing out that the referendums held in the occupied territory of Ukraine in the context of armed conflict lack any validity under international law, he said that Mexico supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Further, he supported efforts by the Secretary-General and other actors to promote dialogue and diplomacy to find political means with which to end the war. He added that Mexico voted in favour of today’s resolution.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) said his country abstained from the vote. Affirming the territorial integrity of all States, he said that the actions that took place around the annexation of territories cannot be perceived as legitimate. While welcoming efforts to amend the text to make it more focused and streamlined, he said that its scope and language do not contribute to resolving the conflict. Rather, the draft reflected the dynamics seen in the Council over the past month, when its members failed to agree on any constructive action. The text also did not contribute to the immediate goals of de-escalating tensions and starting peace negotiations. He urged the Council to explore new courses of action, emphasizing that a refusal to consider alternatives will do nothing to bring about a political solution to the conflict.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) said that since the start of the war in Ukraine, Kenya has consistently called for a cessation of hostilities to allow for dialogue. “Whether this is established now or following a protracted war that can escalate to an extreme danger of international peace and security, a negotiation is inevitable,” he said. Kenya voted in favour of the resolution based on its principled defence of the Charter and the principle of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all Member States. He urged Council members to do more to find a path towards dialogue and diplomacy, rather than turning the Council into an arena for the continuation of conflict by diplomatic means. He concluded by reaffirming Kenya’s recognition of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said that territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence are central to peaceful, cooperative and productive relations between States. Those same principles also protect States and ensure the security and stability of all. Self-determination is also a fundamental principle, but tensions need not amount to a zero-sum game. She added that recent developments warranted a clear statement from the Council. Her delegation voted in favour of the text, even though it would have liked more time to engage on substance and edits. She called for all sides to stop escalating and to instead help create the conditions for peace. She also urged the Russian Federation and Ukraine to return to the negotiating table quickly and without preconditions.
PARFAIT ONANGA-ANYANGA (Gabon) said that his country voted to abstain. He underscored Gabon’s clear position against war and its support for a diplomatic solution. He called for a cessation of hostilities and good-faith negotiations and dialogue to end the fighting and promote peaceful coexistence. He also reiterated his country’s support for all initiatives geared towards a peaceful resolution.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity to condemn the Russian Federation’s annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Noting that his delegation voted in favour of the resolution, he underscored that these regions — like Crimea — are integral parts of Ukraine. As such, France will never recognize these illegal annexations, nor the results of the fake referenda that preceded them, as they constitute a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Welcoming the spirit of compromise reflected in the approach by the United States and Albania to the resolution, he condemned the Russian Federation’s veto of the same, which, once again, shows its irresponsibility in carrying out its duties as a permanent Council member. The Russian Federation stands alone, more than ever, but it is regrettable that the Council was unable to take a unanimous stance to defend the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity — pillars of international law. Underscoring that Ukraine is fighting in its legitimate defence, he stated that France will continue to support that country in countering Russian aggression and recovering full sovereignty over its territory.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine) said that the occupant of the permanent seat of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, with its lonely hand raised against the resolution, testified to its isolation and its desperate attempts to deny reality, as well as the Charter of the United Nations. “Putin’s envoy has followed in the footsteps of his master, who just put on a puppet show to deny the reality that his aggressive regime is heading to its imminent defeat.” Putin has grabbed territories that he does not physically control, he said, adding that Ukraine’s forces continue to liberate its sovereign territories. Thirty civilians were killed and 88 wounded during the Russian shelling of Zaporizhzhia earlier in the day, he said, adding that the only way to make all Ukrainians feel safe is to hoist Ukrainian flags back through occupied Donbas, southern Ukraine and Crimea. Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will continue to do so.
The Russian Federation’s actions in the Council prevents that organ from executing its duty to maintain international peace and security, he said, adding that millions around the world are witnessing the Council’s failure to respond to a global threat. Describing the Council as a broken pillar of the United Nations, he said that other parts of the Organization are resolved to step in and exercise their potential. He quoted the Secretary-General’s clear position on recent events, which he called a “dangerous escalation with no place in the modern world”, and called into question Moscow’s “illegal occupation of the Soviet seat in the Council”. He went on to characterize the Russian Federation’s presence on the Council as a cancerous tumor that should be removed before it metastasizes, stressing: “If the Council cannot act with Russia, it is its duty to act without it.”