US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power (in white jacket) checks her phone as the Russian envoy, Vitaly Churkin, walks past at the General Assembly on Thursday. (Reuters)
United Nations, March 27 (Reuters): The UN General Assembly today passed a non-binding resolution declaring invalid Crimea’s Moscow-backed referendum earlier this month on seceding from Ukraine, in a vote that western nations said highlighted Russia’s isolation.
There were 100 votes in favour, 11 against and 58 abstentions in the 193-nation Assembly. A number of countries did not participate in the vote. Western diplomats said the number of yes votes was higher than expected despite what they said was Moscow’s aggressive lobbying efforts against the resolution.
Before the vote, one senior western diplomat had described a result with 80-90 yes votes as successful for Ukraine. Other western diplomats agreed, saying the result showed how few active supporters Moscow has around the world.
The General Assembly resolution echoes a text Moscow vetoed earlier this month in the Security Council. The approved declaration dismisses Crimea’s vote as “having no validity, (and) cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the City of Sevastopol”.
The resolution, which does not mention Russia by name, says the General Assembly “calls upon all States, international organisations and specialised agencies not to recognise any alteration of the status” of Crimea and Sevastopol.
Although the resolution is non-binding, western diplomats said it sends a strong political message about Russia’s lack of broad support on the Crimean issue. They said the fact that Russia lobbied so hard to persuade UN member states not to vote for it was proof that Moscow took it seriously.
Ukrainian foreign minister Andriy Deshchytsia introduced the draft resolution, which had the overwhelming support of western nations.
“The purpose of this document is to reinforce core UN principles at a moment when they are experiencing a major challenge,” he said.
“This text is also about respect of territorial integrity and non use of force to settle disputes,” he added. “It sends an essential message that the international community will not allow what has happened in Crimea to set a precedent for further challenges to our rules based international framework.”
Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin had urged countries to support what he said was Crimea’s right of self-determination and to respect the Crimeans’ choice to place themselves under the authority of Moscow.