UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Ukraine won a seat on the U.N. Security Council on Thursday and immediately promised to use the platform to wage a political battle against Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting eastern Ukrainian separatists.
The 193-member General Assembly also elected four other countries — Egypt, Japan, Senegal and Uruguay — to the U.N.'s most powerful body. All five countries were unopposed in their bids for the non-permanent seats and will start their two-year terms on Jan. 1.
Fireworks are expected when Ukraine takes its seat alongside permanent member Russia.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin called the election a very important day for Ukraine and the United Nations in its struggle for peace "under Russian aggression — and fighting against Russian aggressions." He said the country is proud of the 177 votes it received, calling the strong support "a sign of world solidarity with Ukraine."
Klimkin was in New York earlier this week meeting with U.N. ambassadors and letting the world know that relations with Russia will be anything but conciliatory.
"Election to the Security Council is of special importance for us as a backdrop of the ongoing Russian aggression," Klimkin told reporters on Tuesday. "For the first time, we have an absolutely unique and unimaginable situation ... that a permanent member of the Security Council is an aggressor in Ukraine, waging a hybrid war against Ukraine."
In an interview with The Associated Press after Thursday's vote, Klimkin stressed that "the Security Council is not just about settling scores."
It's about promoting the U.N. Charter and its commitments to peace, sovereignty and human rights, he said, and Ukraine is ready to work with other council members "to bring stability and security" in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere.
But Ukraine remains committed in its fight "against Russian aggression and showing that Russia is behind what is going on in entire of Donbas," the eastern region controlled by pro-Russian separatists, Klimkin stressed.
He said Ukraine will make the case that Russian troops, mercenaries and weapons must leave the country's east, that Ukraine must regain full control of its border with Russia, and that the international community, the U.N., and human rights monitors must have full access to the region.
Ukraine will also be working to keep up "political pressure on Russia to recognize that the Crimea is illegally occupied," to strengthen U.S. and European sanctions, and to get human rights monitors into Crimea, Klimkin said.
"We need strong support of the whole international community to sort out the Crimean issue because the Crimea is Ukrainian and will be Ukrainian," he said.
Klimkin predicted that "the Crimea will get back to Ukraine far earlier than many believe," arguing that no one in the world can feel safe with Russia breaking international laws and rules which "is disrupting the whole world system."
Russia had quietly campaigned against Ukraine's bid, according to diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private.
In Thursday's Council election, Senegal was the top vote-getter with 187 votes, followed by Uruguay with 185, Japan with 184 and Egypt with 179.
The new council could also see clashes between Japan and rival China, also a permanent member, as well as with Russia. Japan has territorial disputes with both countries.
Egypt will replace Jordan as the representative of Arab nations on the council. The government of army chief-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has been criticized by human rights groups for its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, other Islamists and protesters.
Although its seat was uncontested, Egypt campaigned heavily, inviting ambassadors to visit the country over the summer and hosting a gala dinner Tuesday night for about 500 people, including all U.N. ambassadors and their spouses. It was held at the Temple of Dendur in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a gift to the United States from the Egyptian government in 1965.
Senegal's Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye, noting that African issues account for 70 percent of the council's agenda, said his country's priorities will be tackling extremism including Boko Haram, health issues like Ebola, and the scarcity of water because "water can constitute a factor of peace but it can also bring conflict and war."