THE Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has welcomed last week’s UN vote condemning Russia’s “attempted illegal annexation” of four Ukrainian regions, but has also urged Western governments to do more to bring about a ceasefire.
“This resolution powerfully and publicly signals the international community’s grave concerns — it shows the majority of the world’s nations refusing to recognise any legitimacy to Russia’s claims,” Dr Cocksworth said in an interview on Wednesday.
“However, Western governments need to acknowledge that many developing countries see hypocrisy in the way we are handling this conflict. Normally, the West would be saying: ‘We want a ceasefire, and then we’ll see what we can do.’”
Dr Cocksworth was reacting to the UN General Assembly resolution that calls on countries not to recognise Moscow’s claimed annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions after “so-called referendums” in September (News, 30 September).
The resolution said that parts of the regions were occupied by Russia “as a result of aggression, violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence”, and pledged “strong support” for UN efforts at “dialogue, negotiation and mediation”.
It was backed by 143 member-states, but opposed by Russia, Belarus, Syria, Nicaragua, and North Korea. Thirty-five developing countries abstained.
Dr Cocksworth said that the resolution carried moral authority, but warned that the high abstention rate also implied a criticism of Western governments for prioritising military support for Ukraine over peace efforts.
“To be fair, the Western governments are aware of this charge, and made revisions to the original text to signal that there needs to be a ceasefire and resumption of diplomacy. That’s a really good thing, and may explain why the number of abstentions were not as high as feared,” he said.
“To the extent that Putin is increasingly seen as a war criminal globally, that, of course, is going to increase pressure on the developing world to get on-side publicly on this issue.”
Russia’s missile and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine were, he said, “absolutely horrifying”, and recalled Moscow’s indiscriminate bombardment of Chechnya and Syria. “They amount to a form of state-backed terrorism, which is why there’s been a hardening of international opinion against Russia’s invasion.
“It’s striking that, in recent days, countries such as China and India, who’ve been supportive, or at least more willing to stay on the sidelines for Putin, have become more outspoken in saying they want an immediate ceasefire.”