By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations overwhelmingly isolated Russia on Thursday, marking one year since Moscow invaded Ukraine by calling for a "comprehensive, just and lasting peace" and again demanding Moscow withdraw its troops and stop fighting.
Just a day after China's top diplomat visited Moscow and pledged a deeper partnership with Russia, Beijing abstained on the vote - the fourth time it has done so on such action since the Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.
With a round of applause, the resolution was adopted on Thursday with 141 votes in favor and 32 abstentions. Six countries joined Russia to vote no - Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, Mali, Nicaragua and Syria.
"This resolution is a powerful signal of unflagging global support for Ukraine," Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted on Twitter after the vote.
Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy dismised the action at the United Nations as "useless," posting on Twitter: "Will it bring peace? No! Will it embolden warmongers? Yes! Thus prolonging Ukrainian tragedy."
Russia had described the resolution as "unbalanced and anti-Russian" and urged countries to vote no if it could not be amended. Moscow ally Belarus failed in a bid to change the text with amendments including "prevention of further escalation of the conflict through feeding the parties with lethal weapons."
Western powers have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons since Russia invaded. The United States and NATO have in the past week accused China of considering supplying arms to Russia and warned Beijing against such a move.
"One year into the Ukraine crisis brutal facts offer an ample proof that sending weapons will not bring peace," China's deputy U.N. Ambassador Dai Bing said ahead of the vote. "Adding fuel to the fire will only exacerbate tensions."
China's abstentions appear to reflect a bid to stay on the diplomatic fence over the war in Ukraine. Beijing says the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected, but - in a nod to Russia's unease about NATO - believes all security concerns should be addressed.
'VENEER OF NEUTRALITY'
China did vote against two resolutions adopted by the U.N. General Assembly last year that took specific action - suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council and recognizing Russia must be responsible for making reparations to Ukraine.
China attempts "to maintain this veneer of neutrality, professing to the world that they're not taking a side - but they've clearly chosen a side," U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Thursday.
He said China "has been providing important support to Russia over the course of the last year," citing non-lethal assistance provided by Chinese companies tied to the state.
Moscow has been trying to chip away at its international isolation. As Russia and the West have vied for diplomatic influence, some states - particularly in the global South - have grown concerned about paying the price for being squeezed in the middle of an intense geopolitical rivalry.
"While we support the present resolution's focus on the principles of the charter and international law, it certainly brings us no closer to laying the foundations for a durable peace and bringing and end to devastation and destruction," said South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Mathu Joyini, who abstained.
Brazil voted for the resolution, but its Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho said the "time has come to open space for dialogue and to begin reconstruction."
The General Assembly has been the focus for U.N. action on Ukraine, with the 15-member Security Council paralyzed due to veto power by Russia and the United States along with China, France and Britain.
The Security Council has held dozens of meetings on Ukraine in the past year and will again discuss the war on Friday at a ministerial gathering, due to be attended by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Diplomats say Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is not scheduled to attend.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Costas Pitas and Lincoln Feast.)