Russia on Friday vetoed a Western bid at the UN Security Council to condemn its annexations of Ukrainian territory but found no other support, with China and India abstaining.
Russia's veto was a certainty but Western powers hoped to show Moscow's isolation in its war and will take the condemnation effort to the General Assembly, where every nation has a vote.
The United States pushed through a resolution hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow had taken over four areas of Ukraine which held Kremlin-organized referendums after the land was seized by Russia's military.
"This is exactly what the Security Council was made to do. Defend sovereignty, protect territorial integrity, promote peace and security," the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said at the start of the meeting.
"The United Nations was built on an idea that never again would one country be allowed to take another's territory by force," she said.
Russia's ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, complained that it was unprecedented to seek condemnation of one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council.
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"Do you seriously expect Russia to consider and support such a draft? And if not, then it turns out that you are intentionally pushing us to use the right of the veto in order to then wax lyrical about Russia abusing this right," Nebenzia said.
The resolution, co-sponsored by the United States and Albania, would have condemned the "illegal" referendums held in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine and called on all states not to recognize any changes to Ukraine's borders.
It also would have called on Russia to withdraw troops immediately from Ukraine, ending an invasion launched on February 24.
China urges 'restraint'
Putin shortly before the invasion visited Beijing and agreed to a closer relationship. But China has stopped short of robustly supporting Russia, with US officials saying Beijing has refused requests to supply weapons.
"The sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be safeguarded," said China's ambassador, Zhang Jun.
"China calls on all parties concerned to exercise restraint, refrain from actions that actually exacerbate tensions and leave space for a solution through diplomatic negotiations."
India, Brazil and Gabon also abstained. Among the notable affirmative votes were Mexico, which has put forward a peace proposal, and the United Arab Emirates, which had hesitated on US-led sanctions on Russia.
Britain's envoy Barbara Woodward said the Security Council vote showed that Putin's annexation is a "fantasy" that holds "no legal effect."
"Council members have voted in different ways, but one thing is clear -- Not a single other member of this Council recognizes Russia's attempted illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. Russia's veto doesn't change that fact," she said.
"This is the largest forcible annexation of territory since the Second World War. There is no middle ground on this."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier Friday said the United States would seek a vote at the General Assembly if there were a veto, saying: "Every country has a stake in condemning these steps."