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Russia Abstains from Vote on UNSC Resolution Condemning Houthi Attacks on Red Sea Shipping

The UN Security Council held a meeting on the Red Sea situation during which it passed a resolution condemning “in the strongest terms” the multiple attacks by Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen, which have disrupted global trade and raised fears of further spillover from the war in Gaza. Russia, along with China, Mozambique, and Algeria, abstained, allowing the resolution to pass with 11 votes.

According to the UN News report on the resolution, the text calls for respect for the exercise of navigational rights and freedoms by merchant and commercial vessels in line with international law. It further “takes note of the right of Member States,” in accordance with international law, to defend their vessels from attacks, including those that undermine navigational rights and freedoms. It also emphasizes the need to “address the root causes” of the attacks that are contributing to regional tensions, to ensure a “prompt, efficient and effective response.” The resolution condemns the provision of any arms to the Houthis and “urges caution and restraint to avoid further escalation of the situation in the Red Sea and the broader region.”

Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vassily Nebenzia, in his remarks to the council, emphasized what he described as the “dangerous flaws” of the resolution presented by the United States. “We should like to emphasize once again that this resolution cannot be regarded as legitimizing actions in the Red Sea by the so-called ‘coalition’ consisting of the United States and its satellites,” he said in a statement after the vote posted to the Russian mission’s website. According to Nebenzia, in his remarks before the vote, the United States and its allies “have assembled a so-called ‘international coalition’ (which quite characteristically consists mainly of American ships), which is supposed to ‘ensure security,’ although in reality the legitimacy of its actions raises the most serious questions in terms of international law.”

“We also regret that, despite the insistent requests of a number of delegations, including representatives of the Arab world, the real root cause of instability in the Red Sea—the plight of the Gaza Strip—was not mentioned in the document,” the Russian envoy said after the vote.

China and Algeria also linked the Gaza war with the situation in the Red Sea. “We could not associate ourselves with a text that ignores the 23,000 lives that have been taken since last October in the Gaza Strip,” summed up Algeria’s top representative, Ambassador Amar Bendjama. China’s Permanent Representative Zhang Jun saw in the resolution’s “ambiguities,” a reason to fear an exacerbation of regional tensions.

Responding to the UN vote, Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, member of the Supreme Political Council and former head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, reportedly said that the group’s actions were justified. He argued that what “the Yemeni armed forces are doing comes within the framework of legitimate defense,” and that along with Israel, the U.S. and Britain are violating international law in their response to the war in Gaza.