By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. General Assembly voted on Monday to reject Russia’s call for the 193-member body to hold a secret ballot later this week on whether to condemn Moscow’s move to annex four partially occupied regions in Ukraine.
The General Assembly decided, with 107 votes in favor, that it would hold a public vote – and not a secret ballot – on a draft resolution that would condemn Russia’s “illegal so-called referenda” and the “attempted illegal annexation.” Diplomats said the vote on the resolution would likely be on Wednesday.
Only 13 countries on Monday opposed holding a public vote on the draft resolution, another 39 countries abstained and the remaining countries did not vote. Russia had argued that a secret ballot was needed because Western lobbying meant that “it may be very difficult if positions are expressed publicly.”
Moscow has moved to annex four partially occupied regions in Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – after staging what it called referendums. Ukraine and allies have denounced the votes as illegal and coercive.
The draft resolution to be voted on later this week calls on states not to recognize Russia’s move and reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed the international community earlier on Monday to make clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions are “completely unacceptable.”
“Now is the time to speak out in support for Ukraine; it is not the time for abstentions, placating words, or equivocations under claims of neutrality. The core principles of the U.N. Charter are at stake,” Blinken said in a statement.
Russia vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member Security Council last month. It has been trying to chip away at its international isolation after nearly three-quarters of the General Assembly reprimanded Moscow and demanded it withdraw its troops within a week of its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
The moves at the United Nations mirror what happened in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. At the Security Council Russia vetoed a draft resolution that opposed a referendum on the status of Crimea and urged countries not to recognize it.
The General Assembly then adopted a resolution declaring the referendum invalid with 100 votes in favor, 11 against and 58 formal abstentions, while two dozen countries didn’t take part.