Which countries still support Russia's invasion of Ukraine as China urges peace?

Russia still retains the backing of several countries a year after its invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia February 21, 2023. Sputnik/Pavel Bednyakov/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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As the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine approaches, China has called for an end to the war as two more countries refused to demand Russia withdraw its troops.

Vladimir Putin's army invaded Ukraine on 24 February last year.

In a United Nations General Assembly vote held on Thursday, 141 countries called for an end to the fighting and for Russia's immediate withdrawal from Ukraine, 34 countries abstained and seven voted against the resolution.

Among the seven were Russia and the four other countries that had backed Putin a year ago (Belarus, Syria, Eritrea and North Korea), as well as Mali and Nicaragua.

On Tuesday, Putin delivered a state of the nation address in Moscow in which he blamed the West and NATO for the war.

He also said Russia was suspending its participation in the New Start treaty, the last remaining nuclear arms deal between his country and the US.

His speech came 24 hours after US president Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv in a show of solidarity with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Watch: Putin criticises the West as he defends Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Biden said the US would stand with Ukraine "for as long as it takes" and said that "Putin's war of conquest was failing".

On Sunday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said China was considering supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

Speaking to CBS News, Blinken said: To date, we have seen Chinese companies... provide non-lethal support to Russia for use in Ukraine.

"The concern that we have now is based on information we have that they're considering providing lethal support."

He warned there would be "serious consequences" for China if it helped arm Russia.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said: "We do not accept the United States' finger-pointing on China-Russia relations, let alone coercion and pressure."

On Monday, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said he had been told by Chinese diplomat Wang Yi that China does not plan to arm Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia February 21, 2023. Sputnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Russian president Vladimir Putin blamed the West for his country's invasion of Ukraine. (Reuters)

The US' claim was denied by officials in Beijing, and days China later issued a statement denouncing the conflict.

"Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiralling out of control," the statement said.

The Chinese ministry also outlined a 12-point plan for a ceasefire that included "abandoning the Cold War mentality" and "protecting civilians and prisoners of war".

However, while China urged peace, its timing has been described as an "act of defiance" against the US, while it also abstained from the United Nations General Assembly vote on Thursday calling for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

Which countries have supported Russia in its invasion of Ukraine?

Just days after Russia's invasion last year, the widespread international opposition was illustrated at a United Nations General Assembly vote, in which only four countries backed Putin.

A motion calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops was supported by 141 countries in the emergency session in New York, with only five nations, including Russia, opposing. Another 35 nations abstained.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. (Vladimir Astapkovich, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko is an ally of Russia leader Vladimir Putin. (AP)

The four countries that stood with Russia at the time were Belarus, Syria, Eritrea and North Korea.

However, in the most recent UN vote held on Thursday demanding Russia withdraw troops from Ukraine, Mali and Nicaragua added their votes to the opposition.

Belarus, Mali, Nicaragua, Russia, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea all voted against the resolution on Thursday, while 32 countries abstained - among them China.

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has retained close military ties with Russia after Putin propped up his regime.

Russia has used Belarusian territory to send troops into Ukraine and the two nations have conducted joint military drills.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad hailed Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a “correction of history”. He depends on Russian troops and airstrikes to bolster his regime in his country's ongoing civil war.

Iran has also been a supporter of Putin, reportedly smuggling long-range armed drones to Russia for use in the war on Ukraine, according to The Guardian.

At the end of last year, the UK's Ministry of Defence said: "Iran has become one of Russia's top military backers since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Kyiv, Ukraine. 20th February, 2023. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds press conference US President Joe Biden after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday Feb 20, 2023. Biden has arrived in Kiev for a surprise visit as the first anniversary of Russia's full invasion of the country approaches. (Ukraine Presidential Press Office handout via EYEPRESS) Photo via Credit: Newscom/Alamy Live News
US president made a surprise visit to meet Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Monday. (Alamy)
Kyiv, Ukraine. 20th Feb, 2023. US President JOE BIDEN and Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY pay their respects at the Wall of Remembrance for the Deceased for Ukraine in Kyiv. (Credit Image: © Ukraine Presidency/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE! Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and US president Joe Biden at the Wall of Remembrance in Kyiv on Monday. (Alamy)

"Iran’s support to the Russian military is likely to grow in the coming months: Russia is attempting to obtain more weapons, including hundreds of ballistic missiles.

"In return Russia is highly likely offering Iran an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their defence relationship."

China and India are two major nations to maintain ambiguous positions on the Ukraine invasion, neither supporting nor condemning Russia's actions.

Both abstained from the UN vote last March, and both used the general assembly in September to call for a negotiated end to the conflict.

Watch: Joe Biden makes surprise visit to Ukraine