Russia failed to regain a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council after a majority of countries in the General Assembly voted against it on Tuesday, a sign that support for international efforts to isolate Moscow for its war in Ukraine remains significant after nearly 20 months of fighting.
Russia lost the vote for the two council seats allocated to Eastern European countries to Albania and Bulgaria, both supporters of Ukraine. Still, Moscow managed to secure 83 votes in its favor — just under half of the assembly — indicating its hopes the international community will move on from the war are not entirely unfounded.
The vote was the latest test of a Western-led campaign to diplomatically isolate Moscow for its assault on Ukraine. Since the start of the full-scale invasion last year, nearly 150 countries have backed United Nations resolutions demanding that Russia unconditionally withdraw from Ukraine, and several dozen nations have imposed economic sanctions on Moscow.
But many countries have remained neutral, seeing the conflict as primarily a European and American problem, and the Russian economy has proved to be more resilient than expected, mitigating the impact of the sanctions. As the war drags on, concerns are mounting that support for Ukraine will wane, allowing Russia to potentially improve its military performance and gradually improve its place on the international stage.
Created in 2006, the Geneva-based council is regarded as the world’s most important human rights body. While it has no criminal enforcement or sanctioning powers, the council can undertake investigations that help shape the global image of countries. It can also try to influence a country’s behavior if it is deemed to have poor rights records.
Russia had been active in council proceedings, challenging resolutions critical of allies such as Syria and Belarus, and proposing amendments aimed at undercutting a wide range of rights initiatives.
But last year, less than two months after it invaded Ukraine, Russia was