During the emergency special session, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding that Russia end its military operations in the Eastern European country.
Russia was told to “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders”.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
Of the five Brics nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa — only Brazil voted in favour of the resolution.
Justifying its vote, South Africa’s representative to the UN, Mathu Joyini, said the resolution did not create a conducive environment for “diplomacy, dialogue, and mediation”.
“South Africa believes that the UN, especially in the context of Emergency Special Sessions … should be used as a platform to build bridges, address the divergence of views, provide recommendations and support for the parties to engage with the spirit of compromise, while de-escalating tensions, committing to the cessation of hostilities, and building trust and confidence,” Joyini said in a statement.
South Africa “would have also preferred an open and transparent process to negotiate the resolution … This would have allowed all of us, as equal members of the assembly, to present our views and ideally reach a level of understanding before the text was tabled.”
Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town has demonstrated its support and solidarity for Ukraine by illuminating the city hall in blue and yellow, the colours of Ukraine’s national flag.
“We are also calling on our national government — and other governments around the world — to do more for peace to be restored and for the unprovoked and illegal aggression against the Ukrainian people to be halted,” said Cape Town’s mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis.
On Wednesday, Russia said that 498 soldiers had “died in the line of duty”. But this number is disputed by Ukraine, which contends the number of Russian soldiers killed in battle sits above 6 000.
One million refugees have been reported as seeking safety beyond Ukraine’s borders.