In a surprisingly strong rebuke of Moscow, the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday affirmed Ukraine´s territorial integrity and deemed the referendum that led to Russia´s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula illegal.
The vote on the Ukraine-sponsored resolution in the 193-member world body was 100 countries in favor, 11 opposed and 58 abstentions. Twenty-four countries did not vote.
While Ukraine has a lot of sympathy among U.N. member states, Russia has a lot of clout. Both sides lobbied hard ahead of the vote, and diplomats had predicted a significant number of abstentions and a maximum 80 to 90 countries supporting the resolution.
So the high number of "yes" votes, representing more than half the 193 U.N. member states, was a sign of international anger at Moscow´s slow-motion military invasion of Crimea.
"This support has come from all corners of the world which shows that this (is) not only a regional matter but a global one," Ukraine´s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia told reporters after the vote.
"It´s the message that the world is united and Russia is isolated," Deshchytsia said later in an interview with The Associated Press.
He said the strong support reaffirms the U.N. Charter´s guarantee of territorial integrity and "will give an overwhelming majority of countries an additional argument" for "stronger and more concrete action" against Russia.
Russia was only able to muster 10 other "no" votes — Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.