The UN General Assembly on Monday adopted a resolution that calls for Russia to pay war reparations to Ukraine, as ambassadors met to resume their emergency special session devoted to the conflict.
The General Assembly is the UN’s most representative body, comprising all 193 Member States.
Ninety-four countries voted in favour of the resolution, and 14 against, while 73 abstained.
The vote took place in the morning, and countries returned in the afternoon to explain their decisions.
Ukraine: Hold Russia accountable
In presenting the resolution, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya used the biblical adage that “there is nothing new under the sun” as a motif throughout his remarks.
He insisted that Russia must be held accountable for its violations of international law.
“Seventy-seven years ago, the Soviet Union demanded and received reparations, calling it a moral right of a country that has suffered war and occupation,” he said.
“Today, Russia, who claims to be the successor of the 20th century’s tyranny, is doing everything it can to avoid paying the price for its own war and occupation, trying to escape accountability for the crimes it is committing.”
Carnage and compensation
Mr. Kyslytsya pointed out that Russia also supported the creation of the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC), established in 1991 following Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait.
The Commission completed its mandate in February, he reported, having paid out over $52 billion in reparations to victims.
The Ambassador outlined the impact of the Russian war on his country, including bombings targeting residential buildings and infrastructure, the demolition of nearly half of the power grid and utilities, massive displacement, and atrocities such as murder, rape, torture and forced deportations.
“This proposal is not about Russia alone. It will work for the benefit of all those who are being threatened now or might be threatened later by use of force,” he said.
Russia criticizes draft
Speaking before the vote, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya characterized the draft resolution as “a classic example” of a narrow group of States acting not on the basis of international law, but rather trying to consecrate something that is illegal.
He said countries backing the resolution were attempting to position the General Assembly as a judicial body, which it is not.
“These countries boast about how committed they are to the rule of law, but at the same time, they are flouting its very semblance,” he added, speaking in Russian.
No role for the UN
Mr. Nebenzya said the proposed reparations mechanism will be created by a group of countries that will decide how it functions.
“The UN will play no role in this process because the proposed mechanism is suggested to be created outside of the UN, and no one has any plans to account to the General Assembly for its activity,” he continued.
Furthermore, he had “no doubt” that the funding will come from frozen Russian assets, which total billions.
Western countries have long wanted to unfreeze these assets, he said, not to return them to their owner, or to spend them on helping Ukraine, “but rather so as to fund their own constantly growing weapons supplies to Kyiv, and covering the debts for the weapons already supplied.”
About the emergency special session
The General Assembly emergency special session began on 28 February, or just days after the start of the war in Ukraine.
This marks only the 11th time such a meeting has been held since 1950, in line with a resolution widely known as ‘Uniting for Peace’.
Resolution 377A(V) gives the General Assembly power to take up matters of international peace and security when the Security Council is unable to act due to unanimity among its five permanent members – China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia – who have the power of veto.
The current special session was convened after the Council voted in favour of the General Assembly meeting following Russia’s veto of a resolution that would have deplored the assault on Ukraine.