UNITED NATIONS— The U.N. Security Council discussed the Ukrainian crisis Wednesday, as the U.N. Secretary-General headed to Moscow and Kyiv to try to promote a diplomatic solution.
In the Security Council’s first meeting on Ukraine since Crimea voted Sunday to secede and join Russia, council members expressed their strong condemnation of the hastily called vote which was watched over by thousands of Russian troops.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said this crisis has never been about protecting the rights of ethnic Russians as Moscow claims, but about redrawing Russia’s borders to include Crimea.
“The United States rejects Russia’s military intervention and land grab in Crimea. These actions, again, violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Russia’s own binding agreements, international law, the expressed will of most members of this council, and the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter," said Power.
She also criticized Moscow, telling the council that “a thief can steal property, but that does not confer the right of ownership on the thief.”
Britain’s envoy, Mark Lyall Grant, said Russia has annexed part of a sovereign, independent country through the use of military force.
“The Permanent Representative of Russia spoke about this process being in compliance with international law, without outside interference and through a democratic process. It is hard to know which of these three assertions is the biggest lie," said Lyall Grant.
France’s ambassador, Gérard Araud, criticized Russian claims of proposals to resolve the crisis.
“The proposal of the Russian Federation is simple: What’s mine is mine - Crimea is mine - and we can talk about what’s yours - that’s Ukrainian sovereignty - that’s the Russian proposal," said Araud.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin denied Ukrainian accusations that Russian troops fatally shot a Ukrainian soldier Tuesday in the port city of Sevastopol. He said Kyiv planned the provocation so it could tell its troops to fire against Russian soldiers.
“Today a few of my colleagues referred to an alleged attack on a Ukrainian base. I can tell you again, there has been no attack on any base. There weren’t even any Russian soldiers present. Those who were there were unarmed, wearing bulletproof jackets only, members of the self-defense forces," said Churkin.
He also accused senior U.N. human rights official Ivan Simonovic of giving a “one-sided assessment” of the human rights situation on the ground following his nine-day visit to Ukraine.
Simonovic told the Security Council that while there were some cases of Russians who were harassed or attacked, they were “neither widespread nor systemic.” Simonovic said a team of 34 monitors has begun deploying to Ukraine.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon departed for Moscow Wednesday afternoon. He will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday and then go to Ukraine for meetings with interim leaders on Friday.