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U.N. votes to call on Russia to end Ukraine war

Ukraine's U.N. ambassador on year of war
Ukraine's ambassador to the U.N. on Russia's invasion, sanctions and China's role 04:53

United Nations - The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Thursday to call for a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine and for Russia to withdraw its forces immediately.

The resolution, which passed 141-7 with 32 abstentions on the day before the one-year mark of the Ukraine war, calls for Russia's "immediate cessation of the attacks on the critical infrastructure of Ukraine and any deliberate attacks on civilian objects, including those that are residences, schools and hospitals," and it calls on nations and international organizations to "redouble support for diplomatic efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine."

After the vote, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it a "powerful signal of unflagging global support."

The measure, although unenforceable in international law, also stresses the need for accountability for the crimes that may have been committed by Russia in Ukraine through investigations and prosecutions. Through five previous resolutions on Ukraine, the 193-nation General Assembly is front and center at the United Nations because of the ability of Russia to nix any significant resolutions in the 15-nation Security Council through its veto power.

One year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the toll of the conflict has been felt around the world. 

Ukraine sponsored a high-level meeting with investigators and experts testifying about gross violations of human rights by Russia, with Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska telling delegates, "We have the right to live free, not to be killed or tortured" and talked about the more than 6,000 Ukrainian children who have been forcibly taken to Russia or Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Nonetheless, the Security Council meets Friday, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the United States' seat, as he was one year ago when the invasion began. Since then, any enforceable action by the U.N. on Ukraine has been blocked by Russia.

Impact of the vote

"The impact is clear - it sets the perception. It shows who stands where. This is politics, it is how it is being made," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CBS News when asked about the impact of the General Assembly's vote

"One of the most important parts of the resolution ... is the territorial integrity and sovereignty," Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's ambassador to the UN, told CBS News in an exclusive interview. He said that the message of isolating Russia is clear when 70-75% of nations of the world have voted to tell Russia to get out of Ukraine.

"The U.N. General Assembly is in fact the only global body that globally expresses itself when it comes to this aggression against Ukraine," Kyslytsya said.

After the vote, Kuleba said, "It is not only the West who supports Ukraine."

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., said after the vote that Blinken would "reaffirm America's commitment to supporting Ukraine," and that he would return to the Security Council to outline its responsibility to uphold the U.N. charter.

"Today we refuse to give up on hope," she said. "We refuse to give up on the potential for diplomacy, the power of dialogue and the urgency of peace. And tomorrow, we will continue to push for just that durable peace."

Russia and China's warming relations

Although most of the 92 nations and organizations that spoke at the Emergency Special Session focused on the impact of the Russian war on Ukraine and the world overall, several nations focused on the recent warming relations between Russia and China, and the fear that China might send lethal weapons to Russia.

"I'm totally with what both Secretary Blinken and President Biden said - that supplying lethal weapons to Russia will be the crossing of the red line," Kyslytsya told CBS News. "That red line would, I hope, never be crossed. Because if Russia, if China, starts supplying Russia with lethal weapons, it's going to be the case for China starting a real Third World War and I'm sure that is against the intrinsic interest of China."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added that the alliance has seen "some signs" that China may be in the planning stages of supporting Russia's war.

President Putin has met with China's top diplomat, worrying U.S. officials that Beijing could supply lethal aid to the Russian army. 

"It clearly has crossed that threshold into a new type of Cold War," a former advisor in the Obama administration told CBS News' Weijia Jiang.

This week, the U.S. and Europe are "signaling to China very clearly that supplying lethal aid to Russia right now would be crossing a very, very dangerous red line," European Union Ambassador to the U.S. Stavros Lambrinidis told CBS News' Margaret Brennan, adding, "There will be consequences on China."

France's U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere told CBS News that for China to help Russia now in a military way, "would mean helping Russia to aggress and violate the U.N. Charter, to annex part of Ukraine … a clear violation of international law."

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