Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that declared a planned referendum on the status of Ukraine’s Crimea region “can have no validity” and urged nations and international organisations not to recognise it.
“This is a sad and remarkable moment,” Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said after the vote by the 15-member Security Council.
The Russian veto of the draft resolution, drawn up by the United States, was expected. Moscow, which has sent military forces to Crimea, is backing tomorrow’s referendum, which would transfer control of the region from Ukraine to Russia.
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said, “The resounding message from today’s vote is that Russia stands isolated in this council, and in the international community.
“Russia alone backs this referendum. Russia alone is prepared to violate international law, disregard the U.N. charter, and tear up its bilateral treaties. This message will be heard well beyond the walls of this chamber.”
He appealed to Russia to hear the voice of the international community and engage with the Ukrainian authorities.
Moscow, which has sent military forces to the Crimea, is backing today’s referendum, which would transfer control of the region from Ukraine to Russia.
“This annexation … goes beyond Ukraine, it concerns us all,” France’s UN ambassador, Gerard Araud, said in a statement.
The brief resolution noted that the referendum was not backed by the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
It called on “all states, international organisations and specialised agencies not to recognise any alteration of the status of Crimea on the basis of this referendum.”
Later, the Russian foreign ministry condemned the draft resolution as another US attempt to interfere in Ukraine.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian border guard service, Oleg Slobodyan, told The Associated Press the Russians, about 120 in all, took control of a natural gas distribution station in the village. The Foreign Ministry said the force consisted of about 80 and didn’t mention the station, but said the village was seized.
As Crimea prepares for Sunday’s referendum, dozens of billboards throughout the regional capital proclaim “Together With Russia.” But a few have been hit by spray-painters who scrawled out “Russia” and replaced it with “Ukraine.
In an interview on the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Slutsky, head of the Russian parliamentary committee that deals with neighboring countries, said the Kremlin’s handling of the Crimea crisis bolsters “Vladimir Putin’s authority in our country” and is a powerful factor in the “consolidation of our civil society.”
Comments like that lead Mark Galeotti, a New York University professor who is in Moscow, to think that Russia has let its heart take precedence over its head as far as Crimea is concerned. The Kremlin, unusually, is being guided by emotion, he suggested.
“In strategic terms, this is a millstone around the neck,” said Jonathan Eyal, international director of the Royal United Services Institute in London.
Russian exports account for about one-third of Europe’s gas consumption and those pipelines run smack through Ukraine. As Mother Jones’ James West points out, “Russia has long been able to use Ukraine as an energy choke point.” On Thursday, Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported that authorities in Crimea have been securing offshore gas and oil in the region.
Crimean parliamentary speaker Vladimir Konstantinov reportedly said: “These deposits and the platform fully become the property of the Republic of Crimea…We have guarded them. These are our fields and we will fight for them.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the vote’s results are all but a foregone conclusion, and urged Russia’s parliament against accepting any offer to claim Crimea as its own.
“We believe that a decision to move forward by Russia to ratify that vote officially within the Duma would, in fact, be a backdoor annexation of Crimea,” Kerry told reporters in London after six hours of talks Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Putin Friday and said afterwards he still thought a diplomatic solution was possible, although it was “clear we are at a crossroads,” AFP reported.
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