The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, has equated Russia's takeover of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula to theft, saying "a thief can steal property, but that does not confer the right of ownership on the thief."
Power's comments at an emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine Wednesday drew a sharp and immediate response from Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who shot back: "It is simply unacceptable to listen to these insults addressed to our country."
The tense exchange came at the Council's eighth emergency Ukraine session in the past three weeks. The meeting again left Churkin isolated as the lone Council diplomat defending Russia's move to annex Crimea.
Churkin also warned the United States that its public criticism of Russia's role in Crimea could jeopardize future Russian cooperation on other issues facing the 15-member Security Council.
The Russian did not elaborate. But cooperation between Washington and Moscow is key to international efforts aimed at organizing Syrian peace talks. Both governments also are involved in consultations aimed at ending the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
Churkin also accused senior U.N. human rights official Ivan Simonovic of presenting "a one-sided assessment" of the human rights situation in and near Crimea.
Moscow has sought to justify its military presence in Ukraine as a response to threats against Russian-speaking Ukrainians both in and outside the peninsula.
But Simonovic, who just completed a nine-day official visit to Ukraine, told the Council that harassment and attacks on Russian-speaking Ukrainians are "neither widespread nor systemic."