The United Nations General Assembly’s adoption on Wednesday of a resolution that “deplores in the strongest terms” Russia’s “aggression” is the firmest signal yet to Moscow that it faces global isolation for its actions in Ukraine. The resolution was backed by 141 countries – well over the 100 countries that in 2014 supported a similar general assembly vote condemning Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Apart from Russia, four other nations rejected the resolution: Eritrea, North Korea, Syria as well as Belarus – a neighbour of Ukraine that is playing a significant role in Russia’s invasion. UN votes to condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine, but China again stays silent UN watchers scrutinising the vote said there was much to glean not just from the countries that backed the resolution, but also from the countries that abstained from the vote. The likes of Cuba, a traditional Moscow ally which backed Russia in the 2014 vote, chose to abstain this time around. Similarly, Armenia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Nicaragua and Bolivia – all Moscow backers in 2014 – abstained. Venezuela, also previously Moscow’s ally on this issue, did not vote as its UN voting rights have been suspended for non-payment of dues. In Asia, Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand voted in favour of the resolution. India, China, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Vietnam were the 11 Asian countries among the 35 nations that abstained from the vote. Of Asean’s 10 member states, only Laos and Vietnam abstained while the rest backed the resolution. What to expect from Asia at UN General Assembly emergency session on Ukraine Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor and director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, said Asian nations’ votes showed that the Russian aggression was “so naked and raw” that it was indefensible even for countries seen as firmly in Moscow’s diplomatic ambit. The professor said Cambodia’s decision to vote yes and co-sponsor the bill was among the big surprises of the Wednesday night vote, given that its “biggest patron” – China – abstained. Thailand, which is among the Southeast Asian nations that rely on Russia for arms, also surprised observers by voting yes. Thitinan said this was a “victory for the professional diplomats” in the kingdom. The ruling elite in Thailand in fact were as “pro-Putin” as they were “anti-democracy”. Kavi Chongkittavorn, also a veteran observer of Asian diplomatic affairs, said Vietnam’s abstention was noteworthy. The Hanoi government has for some years been courted by the US as among the countries that could potentially be relied on as a counterbalance to China. But its abstention suggested rekindled memory of its old ties with the erstwhile Soviet Union, Kavi said. “This was a “big dilemma for the US which has adopted Vietnam as a premium strategic asset,” he said, noting that Cambodia’s yes vote meant it broke ranks with the Indochina bloc that also comprises Laos and Vietnam. ‘We’re bleeding but we won’t give up’, Ukraine ambassador to Malaysia says Some Asian countries’ permanent representatives explained their positions after the vote. Here is a selection of these comments. China The Chinese permanent representative Zhang Jun said China’s position had been consistent throughout the crisis – it believed countries sovereignty and territorial integrity should be respected and that international disputes needed to be resolved peacefully in accordance with the UN Charter. On the resolution, which was originally tabled in the Security Council by Albania and the US, Zhang Jun said the document “regrettably” was not sent to the entire UN membership for consultations. It also did not “take into full consideration the history and the complexity of the current crisis”. He added: “It does not highlight the importance of the principle of indivisible security or the urgency of promoting political settlement and the setting up of diplomatic efforts. These are not in line with China’s consistent position. Therefore, we had no choice but to abstain in the voting.” India India, which has received some criticism for adopting a middle-ground approach to the invasion, indicated after the vote that it was deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis and the safety of its own nationals caught up in the fighting zones. “We remain firm in our conviction that differences can only be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy,” permanent representative T. S. Tirumurthi said. “India urges that all member states demonstrate their commitment to the principles of the UN Charter, to international law and respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. Keeping in view the totality of the evolving situation, India decided to abstain.” Malaysia Malaysia, represented by its counsellor at the UN Permanent Mission in New York Hanizah Izzuddin, said it voted for the resolution to signal its conviction regarding the principles of territorial integrity, sovereignty and the peaceful settlements of disputes. Still, she noted that “many will agree that the resolution before us is far from perfect”. “While my delegation continues to have concerns about some of the language contained in the resumption, Malaysia voted in favour of it as a matter of principle and of our strong conviction of the aforementioned principles,” Hanizah said. The diplomat underscored that Kuala Lumpur valued its “strong and close relations” with Ukraine and Russia, and believed that the “differences and legitimate security concerns” of both sides needed to be addressed through peaceful dialogue.