News / Europe

UN Concerns High Over Crimea Crisis

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives a press conference at the UN Human rights Council session on March 3, 2014 in Geneva.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon gives a press conference at the UN Human rights Council session on March 3, 2014 in Geneva.
Margaret Besheer
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday expressed “deep disappointment” and concern, a day after Ukraine’s Crimea region voted to align itself with Moscow in a controversial referendum. 

Ban has been closely following the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. He has dispatched a series of senior U.N. officials to Kyiv, including the deputy secretary-general, to try to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. He also spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.

His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters the secretary-general is concerned that Sunday’s referendum declaring Crimea independent from Ukraine will only exacerbate the situation.  

“He encourages all parties to work for a solution that is guided by the principles of the United Nations Charter, including respecting Ukraine’s unity and sovereignty," she said.

The U.N. chief has refrained from pronouncing the referendum illegitimate. Ukraine’s interim authorities and their international supporters say it violated the country’s constitution. But Ban has called on all parties in the country and those with influence to avoid actions that could escalate tensions.

Jeffrey Laurenti, a long-time U.N. analyst and researcher, says there is little the world body can do to stop Moscow.

“The United Nations is hardly in a position to effectively challenge one of its principal guarantor powers on the Security Council. It could not stop the United States from invading Iraq, and it is not going to be able to stop Russia from taking over Crimea or other parts of Ukraine, if the Russians decided to push the envelope further," said Laurenti.

Diplomats have expressed concern at Russia’s move toward annexing Crimea, saying it recalls the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the Hungarian revolution of 1956, and questioning where on the map the current crisis will end.

Concerns were certainly not eased Monday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state - a move seen as the first step toward absorbing the region into Russia.

Analyst Laurenti says there have been several annexations since the U.N. was established in 1945 that have lingered unrecognized by the international community, and Crimea is likely to be added to the list.

“Some have been undone - one thinks of Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor. Others remain under a giant question mark - one thinks of Western Sahara taken over by Morocco and the Israeli annexations of Golan [Heights] and East Jerusalem, and Crimea is undoubtedly going to fall in that category," he said. 

Russia has said it is up to the people of Crimea to determine their future. President Putin has expressed concerns for ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in Crimea, although there is no evidence they have been subjected to bad treatment.

Economic sanctions against Russian officials and their Ukrainian and Crimean allies were announced Monday in Brussels and Washington. They are mainly comprised of travel restrictions and asset freezes in the United States and European Union.

While diplomatic efforts continue, the U.N. General Assembly plans to meet Thursday to discuss the crisis. But the General Assembly does not have powers like the Security Council, so it cannot take any significant measures against Moscow, other than to further isolate it with a large show of political support for Ukraine.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs