The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted for a resolution submitted by Ukraine denouncing the referendum in Crimea that made the Black Sea peninsula an integral part of the Russian Federation.
One hundred UN member countries voted in favor of the resolution, while 11 voted against and 58 abstained. Only 168 out of 193 UN member states were present at the General Assembly in New York.
As well as Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe voted against the resolution.
The resolution “affirms commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
It also calls on UN member states “to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption” of Ukraine’s national unity.
The vote has proven that fears of Russia’s international “isolation,” due to the events in Crimea, are groundless, Vitaly Churkin, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, told RIA Novosti.
Unlike the decisions of the Security Council, the resolutions of the UN General Assembly are not legally binding, but simply express global opinion.
Russia has rejected the UN resolution as “confrontational,” Churkin, said before the vote, adding that the document “undermines the referendum” and the right to self-determination of the Crimean people.
Churkin said that there were “some right things” about the document, however, as it speaks out against unilateral actions and provocative rhetoric. But he said that no UN resolution was needed to achieve those goals, as all sides simply need to start acting in the interests of the Ukrainian people.
The initiative for Crimea to reunite with Russia came from the Crimean people themselves, not from Moscow, Churkin said.
The revocation of the official status of the Russian language and threats to send militants to Crimea by the coup-imposed government in Kiev provided “the critical mass” to push the peninsula to the referendum, he said.
Envoys for the EU and the US declared their support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
“The European Union supports the resolution on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, which follows the UN Charter and calls for a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” said Thomas Mayr-Harting, head of the EU delegation to the UN.
In his speech, Mayr-Harting condemned what he called the violation of Ukrainian territorial integrity by Russia and its “annexation” of Crimea, saying that the referendum was “illegal” and “a clear violation of the Ukrainian constitution.”
US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that international “borders aren’t mere suggestions.”
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations (AFP Photo / Stan Honda)
“Ukraine is justified in asking us not to recognize the new status quo [in Crimea], which Russia has enforced by the military,” she said.
Power urged Moscow to move from a policy of “unilateral confrontation” to diplomacy.
The 193-nation assembly also voted on the Crimea referendum, which the Ukraine resolution says contains “no validity, (and) cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the City of Sevastopol.”
The resolution “calls upon all states to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.”
And the resolution invites “all parties to pursue immediately the peaceful resolution” of the crisis “through direct political dialogue.”
In an effort to attract votes in the General Assembly, where there appears to be little enthusiasm for allowing the situation to create an irreparable rift with Moscow, the draft made no direct mention of Russia.
“The draft resolution is not aimed at condemning any member state,” said Ukraine’s UN envoy Yuriy Sergeyev in a letter accompanying the draft.
On March 19, Russia voted down the Ukrainian resolution denouncing the Crimea referendum, while China said it would abstain from the vote.
Russia also vetoed a Security Council resolution that said the Crimean referendum to join Russia would have “no validity” in an emergency session held the day before Crimea headed to the polls.
On March 16, an overwhelming majority of Crimean residents voted in favor of joining the Russian Federation, following violent protests in the capital Kiev, which forced out democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovich.