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Russian Envoy: No Going Back on Crimea

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - A partially damaged billboard with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a roadside near Simferopol, Crimea, Jan. 24, 2016. The billboard reads: "Crimea. Russia. Forever."

FILE - A partially damaged billboard with a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a roadside near Simferopol, Crimea, Jan. 24, 2016. The billboard reads: "Crimea. Russia. Forever."

Russia’s U.N. envoy said Thursday the issue of Crimea’s annexation “will never be revisited.”

"The reunification of Crimea with Russia was done two years ago after a referendum which was conducted in Crimea -- 93 percent of the population expressed their wish to rejoin Russia; this is what has happened,” Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters at the United Nations.

Russia has accused Ukraine of plotting attacks in the disputed peninsula. Churkin called the alleged plots a “clear act of sabotage and terrorism.”

The U.N. Security Council met Thursday in an emergency closed-door session at Ukraine’s request to discuss the tensions. Ukraine currently holds a seat on the council.

Ukraine’s envoy, Volodymyr Yelchenko, dismissed the Russian accusations and invited Moscow to present evidence. “If their allegations on what happened - this so called terrorist attempt of Ukraine across the border with Crimea – if it happened in reality, where are the proofs? Statements, pictures, photos, videos, whatever. There are only words,” he said.

He said Moscow has massed 40,000 troops in eastern Ukraine, in Crimea and along two countries' border.

“This is not a coincidence,” Yelchenko said. “This number may reflect some very bad intentions, and this is very last thing we would like to happen.”

NATO Concerned

Both diplomats said they hoped tensions would cool down, but at the same time they expressed doubt that the other side would facilitate that.

Earlier Thursday, a NATO official told VOA the alliance is closely monitoring "with concern, the heightened tensions between Russia and Ukraine."

"We are reassured by Ukraine’s resolute condemnation of terrorism in all its shapes and forms," the NATO official said, noting that Kyiv was "devoted" to diplomacy in Crimea.

"Russia’s recent military activity in Crimea is not helpful for easing tensions. We call on Russia to work for calm and de-escalation," the official said. Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, a military move that has continued to be condemned by world leaders and fuel conflict between the two countries.

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