The Government of Brazil abstained as Russia was being suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council Thursday evening, with only 23 countries voting against the measure, adopted as a consequence of gross and systematic violations and abuses during the invasion of Ukraine.
The other three Mercosur countries -Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay- cast a vote in favor of the measure.
The last time such a sanction was adopted was in 2011 when Libya was suspended because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.
A two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member General Assembly in New York — abstentions do not count — was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
The resolution passed during an emergency session of the UN General Assembly cites grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
Russia has warned countries that both positive votes and abstentions would be viewed as an unfriendly gesture with consequences for bilateral ties.
The HRC cannot make legally binding decisions, although it does send important political messages and it can also authorize investigations.
Moscow's suspension means its delegates no longer have a say or a vote on the council, but they may still attend debates. They would probably still try to influence the council through proxies, said a Geneva-based diplomat.
Speaking before the vote, Ukraine's UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said a yes vote would save the Human Rights Council and many lives around the world and in Ukraine, but a no vote was pulling a trigger, and means a red dot on the screen — red as the blood of the innocent lives lost.
The United States announced it would seek Russia's suspension after Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing hundreds of civilians in the town of Bucha.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the decision, saying on Twitter: War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights.
We reject the untruthful allegations against us based on staged events and widely circulated fakes, Russia's deputy UN ambassador Gennady Kuzmin told the General Assembly before the vote.
China's envoy underlined that the US' motion to suspend Russia forced countries to choose sides, which will aggravate the division among member states, intensify the confrontation between the parties concerned — it is like adding fuel to the fire, Ambassador Zhang Jun said before the vote.
Supporting Russia were Venezuela, China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Algeria, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mali, Zimbabwe and Belarus, the only country all across the European continent and Russia's main ally in the logistics of the invasion of Ukraine.
Brazil, heavily dependent on Russian fertilizers, and Mexico (with a historical policy of non-intervention) abstained.
El Salvador, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados also abstained.
Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, and the rest of the South American countries supported the initiative.