News / Europe

Russia Vetoes Crimea Resolution, China Abstains

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin speaks during an U.N. Security Council meeting on the Ukraine crisis, Saturday, March 15, 2014, at United Nations headquarters.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin speaks during an U.N. Security Council meeting on the Ukraine crisis, Saturday, March 15, 2014, at United Nations headquarters.
Margaret Besheer
Russia deployed its veto at the U.N. Security Council Saturday, blocking a resolution condemning the referendum slated for Sunday in the Ukrainian region of Crimea. If passed, it would see the Black Sea peninsula secede from the country and join Russia.

The move came as Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations warned that Russian paratroopers have crossed the Crimean border into the Ukrainian mainland.

At the U.N, the United States put forward the resolution in a strategic effort to demonstrate the extent of Russia's political isolation, and attempted to reaffirm Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence while calling on states not to recognize the results of the referendum.

Although it was not adopted, the effort succeeded to the extent that China — Moscow's close ally and another veto-wielding council member — abstained instead of siding with Russia.

In remarks to the council, China's envoy urged the quick establishment of an international coordinating mechanism to explore a political settlement. He also said all parties should refrain from actions that would escalate tensions, and suggested that international financial institutions should explore how to maintain Ukraine's economic and financial stability.

Russian aggression 'escalating'

The largely symbolic Security Council maneuvers are unlikely to change Moscow's mind and or deescalate the situation, let alone derail the referendum, which is scheduled for March 16. Russian troops have been amassing both on the Ukrainian-Russian border and inside the autonomous Crimea region, and Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, told the council that Russia's military aggression is escalating.

“Russian troops entered the mainland of the south from Crimea. Now we are facing new developments and we are to face further dangerous stance of Russian Federation, and I appeal to all of you to find means and measures in the Security Council and United Nations, as well as on bilateral level, to do utmost to stop the aggressor, here present by the Russian delegation,” he said.

He told reporters afterwards that the region the Russian forces, including paratroopers, have entered is responsible for providing electricity and water to the Crimean peninsula.

Reuters reported that about 120 Russian troops had moved into the area but that Ukraine's border guard service said there was no threat of "confrontation."

Russia defends vote
 
The Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, speaking ahead of the vote, defended the right of self-determination of the Crimean people and appeared to argue that the referendum would correct an earlier Soviet error.

“Up until 1954, Crimea was part of the Russian Federation. It was given to Ukraine in violation of the norms at that time under Soviet law and without taking into account the view of the peoples of Crimea, who nevertheless remained within a single state — the USSR. When the USSR fell, Crimea became part of Ukraine automatically. The view of the people of Crimea — once again — was ignored,” said Churkin.

Council diplomats made forceful condemnations of Moscow's behavior in the past weeks. France's envoy accused Russia of vetoing the U.N. Charter, while Lithuania's ambassador quoted former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's 1997 remarks in Kyiv, where he declared that Russia did not lay claim on Ukraine or any of its cities.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Russia's veto could not change the fact that its actions would have consequences, nor would it change the aspirations and destiny of the Ukrainian people.

“Nor can it change Crimea’s status. Crimea is part of Ukraine today; it will be part of Ukraine tomorrow; it will be part of Ukraine next week; it will be part of Ukraine unless and until its status is changed in accordance with Ukrainian and international law,” said Power.

If the referendum goes ahead Sunday as expected, Russia is likely to face a barrage of economic sanctions from the United States and European Union which could cost it hundreds of billions of dollars.

Rival rallies

In Moscow Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters gathered for rival rallies on Crimea.

Motorist displays Russian flags ahead of referendum widely expected to transfer control of Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine to Moscow, Sevastopol, March 15, 2014.Motorist displays Russian flags ahead of referendum widely expected to transfer control of Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine to Moscow, Sevastopol, March 15, 2014.
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Motorist displays Russian flags ahead of referendum widely expected to transfer control of Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine to Moscow, Sevastopol, March 15, 2014.
Motorist displays Russian flags ahead of referendum widely expected to transfer control of Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine to Moscow, Sevastopol, March 15, 2014.
Supporters of the Crimea referendum waved Russian and Soviet Union flags as they marched to Moscow's Revolution Square. Many of them wore identical red and black outfits.

Separately, chanting opponents waved Ukrainian and Russian flags. Some voiced concern that Russian intervention in Crimea could lead to war.

Also, hundreds of people turned out for a rally in Kiev where they voiced support for Crimea remaining a part of Ukraine.

International monitors

International monitors began arriving in Crimea on Saturday to observe Sunday's referendum vote. The monitors were invited by Russia and pro-Russian Crimean officials.

Alexander Simov, a Bulgarian journalist, said he believes the vote is legitimate.

"I am going to watch the whole process. To see ... that it is a legal referendum," he said. "So I think it is going to be very legal."

Woman at pro-Russian rally, holding a Crimean flag, wrapped in a Russian one, Simferopol, 15 March 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA).Woman at pro-Russian rally, holding a Crimean flag, wrapped in a Russian one, Simferopol, 15 March 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA).
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Woman at pro-Russian rally, holding a Crimean flag, wrapped in a Russian one, Simferopol, 15 March 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA).
Woman at pro-Russian rally, holding a Crimean flag, wrapped in a Russian one, Simferopol, 15 March 2014. (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA).
Another monitor, Helsinki University professor Johan Backman, says Western powers do not fully understand the situation in Crimea.

"Western politicians cannot understand what is going on," he said. "As far as I understand, these countries, and especially the U.S., have very weak informational base about what is going on in Russia ... and, secondly, what is happening in Ukraine. Also, Western politicians of EU they do not really understand what happens in Russia. Western countries are at a dead end. In fact they cannot take any measures against Russia in this situation. And Russia is in control totally and securely."

'Kremlin agents'

Ukraine accused "Kremlin agents'' on Saturday of fomenting deadly violence in Russian-speaking cities and urged people not to rise to provocations its new leaders fear Moscow may use to justify a further invasion after its takeover of Crimea.

FILE - Ukrainian interim leader Oleksander Turchinov.FILE - Ukrainian interim leader Oleksander Turchinov.
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FILE - Ukrainian interim leader Oleksander Turchinov.
FILE - Ukrainian interim leader Oleksander Turchinov.
From his speaker's chair in parliament, acting president Oleksander Turchinov referred to three deaths in two days in Donetsk and Kharkiv and said there was "a real danger" of invasion by Russian troops across Ukraine's eastern border.

Addressing members of the party of the pro-Moscow president who was ousted in last month's Kiev uprising, Turchinov said: "You know as well as we do who is organizing mass protests in eastern Ukraine — it is Kremlin agents who are organizing and funding them, who are causing people to be murdered."

Two men, described by police as pro-Russian demonstrators, were shot dead in a fight in Kharkiv late on Friday. A Ukrainian nationalist was stabbed to death when pro-Russia and pro-Ukraine demonstrators clashed in Donetsk on Thursday.

Reaction

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that Russian acceptance of a Crimean referendum to break off from Ukraine and join Russia would be an illegal "backdoor annexation."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russia's FM Sergei Lavrov before their meeting at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in London, March 14, 2014.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russia's FM Sergei Lavrov before their meeting at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in London, March 14, 2014.
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russia's FM Sergei Lavrov before their meeting at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in London, March 14, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russia's FM Sergei Lavrov before their meeting at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in London, March 14, 2014.
Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for six hours in London Friday in an effort to defuse the tensions in Crimea.

If Sunday's vote passes and the Russian parliament ratifies it, Kerry said that would violate international law, and there will be consequences. He said this is not a threat against Russia but a matter of respecting international standards for annexation and independence.

Lavrov said in a separate news conference that the talks with Kerry were useful, but the two have "no common vision" on Crimea. He said Russia will "respect the will of the Crimean people," and he criticized the threat of U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russia as "counterproductive."

U.S. Republican Senator John McCain says a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine would be a breach of "enormous consequences" and could bring a very sharp response by the United States and Europe.

Story continues below video: Germany Warns of 'Massive' Consequences
Germany Warns of 'Massive Damage' to Russia Over Crimea Crisisi
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Henry Ridgwell
March 14, 2014 9:19 PM
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Moscow that Europe could inflict 'massive economic,' political damage' to Russia if situation escalates in Ukrainian region of Crimea. Crimeans vote Sunday in a referendum on leaving Ukraine. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Speaking from Kyiv Saturday as part of a U.S. Senate delegation meeting with Ukraine's interim leaders and the opposition, the senator said he is deeply concerned about reports of Russian troops moving closer to the eastern Ukrainian border and conducting military exercises.

Calling Sunday's referendum in Crimea "phony," McCain said if Russia invades Ukraine, the United States and its European allies would contemplate action that they have never thought about before in their relations with Russia.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday he still hopes for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. But Kerry said it is clear Russian President Vladimir Putin will not make any moves until after Sunday's referendum.

The Kremlin says Putin told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a phone call that the referendum is "fully consistent with international law and the U.N. Charter." However, the U.S. and European Union say the referendum violates Ukraine's constitution and international law.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is traveling to Poland and Lithuania next week to meet with regional partners to discuss events in Ukraine.

A White House statement says Biden will consult on steps to support Ukraine's sovereignty, and affirm international "collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty."

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Comments page of 2
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by: Lyutik from: USA
March 17, 2014 9:11 PM
Samantha Powers run twards Russian Embassador yelling that Russia humiliates US with its nuclear arsenal. All diplomates laughed at her and Churkin asked her not to spay her saliva. She is a real shame to the US

by: Elizabeth Regina from: Londongrad
March 16, 2014 1:32 PM
Russia ,Uk,china France,germany Predator nations own the world .
they make the rules. Let them butt head among them.
good for native peoples on whom they prey upon.Using India as their foot soldiers.

by: DarTell from: America
March 16, 2014 9:24 AM
Putin knows Obama's flexible agenda includes a public show of upset ness with Putin on Ukraine. He expects Obama to lip out threats with Sanctions. Which won't mean a thing. Putin is ready for War, Obama with Kerry will submit to Putin. What else is there to do.. Go to War? Putin knows Obama and Europe has no spine for War. First Crimea then Ukraine. )0v0(

by: Devadoss from: India
March 16, 2014 7:28 AM
Not sure if people understand the real issue here. Ukraine has a presidential form of governance and the currently ousted president was democratically elected in an election. He initially wanted to go ahead with a comprehensive economic agreement with the EU. However when Putin offered better terms, including a 15M loan and subsidized oil, he went for it. The protesters were all pro-western guys who started the violence. The US brazenly supported these protesters, with the US secretary in the region, distributing pastries to the protestors. The emboldened protesters oust the elected representative and with western help, install a western puppet. Much of the Russian ethnic population does not like this. Russia intervenes to protect its interests, which are now jeopardized due to Western actions. But ridiculously, the Western media projects it like the Russians are aggressors. The actual aggressors are the Western nations, who refuse to let the Cold war die, by continuing to expand their influence far east into eastern Europe. Hope justice prevails against these guys for once at least.

by: A Finn from: Helsinki
March 16, 2014 7:17 AM
Johan Bäckman quoted in the text is known as Kremlin's voice in Finland. Also, he does not hold a position at the University of Helsinki – or any other university for that matter. (He possesses the title of "dosentti", or adjunct professor, which is not indicative of employment.)

by: Truth from: NY
March 16, 2014 5:06 AM
The Kremlin says Putin told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a phone call that the referendum is "fully consistent with international law and the U.N. Charter." However, the U.S. and European Union say the referendum violates Ukraine's constitution and international law.

Double standard cuz US and EU both violates not once but many times other countries sovereignty and territory of other nations by waging proxy war or prompting protest that does not benefit them.
Not respect sovereignty of nations of false context EX:
Libya/Afghanistan/Iraq/Pakistan/Yemen= ppl die everyday cuz of what happen in their countries
Proxy wars EX:
Syria where u back terrorist that u were fighting in Iraq/afghan/Africa/all over Mideast and even in Mexico where they work with drug cartels that the Mexican government fights ever day. Let the truth be told ppl don't me fool by media they are all brought by Zionist and the rich ppl for money/recourses/power= being run by CFR and AIPAC

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Abeokuta Nigeria
March 16, 2014 4:12 AM
Putin will not bend to diplomacy ,step up to Russia and take this chance to bring meaningful sanity to a reformed UN were Russia behaves like a member of the international community than an aggressor.

by: Dinh Tien Hoang from: Vietnam
March 16, 2014 3:07 AM
I think the countries in U.N. Security Council which supported the resolution pay no attention to the interests and the basic rights of the people of Crimea as well as international laws. They did so because they are selfish and so afraid that the Crimea case will be the antecedent for possible separation in their own countries. Another reason is that they dare not displease the USA and its allies. If not why Kosovo was able to separate from Serbia.
China abstained because although it does not want to promote separation movements inside China, it doeas not want to displease Russia, its huge ally.
I do not think it is a sign that Russia will face isolation because in many cases the USA is the only country in the Council which vetoed resolutions against Israel...
Because no country except Russia pays attention to the fate of Crimea people, it is up to the people of Crimea to decide their own fate,
Russia must act decisively despite threat of sactions or it would be too late for them.

by: Johnsona from: SA
March 16, 2014 1:44 AM
Leave russia alone this 5 security members of UN are one controlling the world, they do as they please. Today is russia tomorrow is China the nexi is UK

by: Lopez from: United States Of America
March 15, 2014 11:04 PM
We need to sanction Russia and take preventive measures to further alienate ourselves from them. Lets rip up our agreement that we made with Russia on our missile defense program, Russia seems blood thirsty for war, and America and other states need to take precautions .. Long live the USA and all that we stand for!!!!!
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