NEW YORK -- The United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Monday (December 7) adopted a resolution demanding Russia end its "temporary occupation" of Crimea, which Moscow illegally seized in 2014.
The resolution on the militarisation of the peninsula of Crimea, the port of Sevastopol and parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov was adopted by 63 countries, with 17 voting against and 62 abstaining.
The resolution is non-binding but has political significance. It was put forward by 40 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, the Baltic states, the United States, Australia, Canada and Turkey.
The 17 countries that voted against it were Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Cambodia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Serbia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
The resolution "urges the Russian Federation, as the occupying Power, immediately, completely and unconditionally to withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine without delay".
Citing the "continuing destabilisation of Crimea owing to transfers by the Russian Federation of advanced weapon systems, including nuclear-capable aircraft and missiles, weapons, ammunition and military personnel to the territory of Ukraine", the resolution called on Russia to stop all such transfers "without delay".
Fighting between Ukrainian troops and forces backed by the Kremlin has left more than 13,000 dead since 2014, when it annexed Crimea and when pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine rebelled against Kyiv.
The Russian mercenary force Wagner Group, in co-ordination with the Russian military, is behind the civil war in eastern Ukraine and was instrumental in Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea.
The UN vote comes shortly on the heels of the call by incoming Moldovan President Maia Sandu for Russian troops to withdraw from Transnistria, a breakaway region at the border with Ukraine.
The two recent development will likely catch the attention of a number of ex-Soviet states that either host Russian troops or worry about the Kremlin's games with Russian minorities.
Pretext for invasion
The Kremlin in the past has cited the protection of ethnic Russian minorities abroad as a pretext for invasion, as it did in Ukraine.
Nur-Sultan, in turn, has taken steps to dilute the concentration of ethnic Russians in the north of Kazakhstan, including the voluntary resettlement of ethnic Kazakhs from the south to the north of the country.
Tajikistan has proven vulnerable to Moscow's military projection. It hosts the largest Russian military base outside Russia, the 201st Military Base.
The Kremlin's pretext for its massive troop presence in Tajikistan is neighbouring Afghanistan. Moscow frequently cites the supposed threat of 10,000 militants in Afghanistan massing to swarm into Central Asia, even though Afghan officials reject that figure.
Russian and Tajik forces in mid-July kicked off joint exercises ostensibly to prepare for militant attacks emanating from Afghanistan. However, the real reason, observers say, is the Kremlin's reluctance to allow others, such as China, into its "back yard".
Russian troops also are stationed in Kyrgyzstan, where the Kremlin is attempting to regain a foothold after losing sway following the country's recent presidential elections.