India’s vote to allow Zelensky speech was not against Russia, says MEA 

India’s vote to allow Zelensky speech was not against Russia, says MEA 

In a first, India had voted against Russian motion to stop Ukraine president from addressing UNSC virtually

India on Thursday denied that it had voted “against Russia”, at the U.N. Security Council during a procedural vote on whether to allow Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the Council virtually during a debate on the Ukrainian situation on August 24. Russia, which had requested the vote, was against allowing the Ukrainian President to speak via VTC (Video TeleConferencing) and called for him to come in person to New York or allow the Ukrainian Ambassador to speak during the debate that marked six months of the conflict. China abstained, while India, along with the remaining 12 members, voted in favour of Mr. Zelensky speaking at the debate. Officials said the vote was not about Russia or Ukraine, but about whether to vote for or against Mr. Zelensky’s participation.

“My understanding is that we have not voted against anybody. It was a proposal to allow him to speak virtually, and we allowed it. It was the third occasion he spoke virtually [at the UN], and we supported that. So there is no question of us voting against Russia,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi when asked about the vote at his weekly media briefing.

At the UNSC on Wednesday, India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj had appealed for diplomacy and dialogue between Russia and Ukraine, and said India continues to send humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict and work with other countries to mitigate food and fuel shortages emerging from the conflict. Officials stressed that India’s stand on the issue hasn’t changed, downplaying the significance of India’s vote to allow Mr. Zelensky’s speech.

India’s vote was considered unusual as this is the first time India’s vote on a UN issue pertaining to the Ukraine conflict has gone “against” Russia’s vote. In more than a dozen such votes at the UNSC and UN General Assembly since February this year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered attacks on Kyiv and Ukrainian cities in what he called a “special military operation”, India has abstained and refused to support any statement critical of Russian actions.

“Technically, yes, we voted against a Russian preference, but in reality the question before us was different,” one official said.

The Indian vote also followed a few weeks after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on August 8 about humanitarian assistance, including medicines and bandages that India has dispatched to Ukraine.

However, since then Ukraine stepped up criticism of New Delhi’s decision to substantially increase its imports of Russian oil, and in a virtual press briefing on August 17, Mr. Kuleba said he had hoped for more “practical support” from India.

“When India purchases Russian crude oil [at a discount], they have to understand that the discount has to be paid by Ukrainian blood. Every barrel of Russian crude that India gets, has a good portion of Ukrainian blood in it,” Mr. Kuleba had added, in response to a question from The Hindu.

At an interaction in Bangkok the same day, Mr. Jaishankar had defended India’s position, saying India’s poor could not afford higher fuel prices. “Every country will try to ensure the best deal it gets to cushion high energy prices and India is doing exactly the same thing,” Mr. Jaishankar said.

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