Ukraine predicts ‘yes’ vote at UN on its territorial integrity

A meeting of the UN General Assembly is predicted to pass a resolution confirming Ukraine's territory and condemning the referendum in Crimea that led to Russia's annexation

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 2:12pm

Ukraine is predicting that the UN General Assembly will adopt a resolution on Thursday reaffirming the country’s territorial integrity and calling the referendum that led to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula illegal.

Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said in an interview on Wednesday that the resolution has “several dozen” co-sponsors and support from democratic countries around the world – but he wouldn’t predict the size of the “yes” vote.

Russia has mounted a campaign against the resolution, claiming the dispute is an East-West issue. Sergeyev said he had been speaking to regional groups and explaining that Russia violated the UN Charter that guarantees the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine and that the country is not a member of any bloc.

Unlike resolutions in the powerful Security Council, resolutions in the 193-member General Assembly cannot be vetoed and are not legally binding, though they do reflect world opinion.

“The resolution will be voted in favour.”
Yuriy Sergeyev

While Ukraine has a lot of sympathy among UN members, Russia has a lot of clout and diplomats say there are likely to be a significant number of abstentions.

One diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said between 80 and 90 “yes” votes would send a strong message of opposition to Russia. But that would mean support from less than half the UN member states.

“The resolution will be voted in favour,” Sergeyev said. “But the importance is how deeply the United Nations membership understands the danger of the challenges the United Nations faces these days.”

He said Russia’s takeover and annexation of Crimea undermines the basic principles of the UN Charter and the 1994 Budapest Memorandum under which Russia, the United States and Britain guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity when it surrendered its share of Soviet nuclear arsenals to Moscow after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.

Crimea has been at the centre of Europe’s greatest geopolitical crisis since the end of the Cold War. Russian troops took over the Ukrainian peninsula, where Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based, and Moscow officially annexed Crimea following a referendum last week.

The upheaval in Crimea is the fallout of months of anti-government protests and outbursts of violence that led to the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych, who fled last month.

In trying to counter Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Sergeyev said he has been telling regional groups that the protests were in response to actions by the Yanukovych government – not the West – and that Ukraine is neither a Nato member nor a European Union member.

“We are a non-bloc country,” he said. “What we are looking for in the European Union ... is association for partnership.”

The UN’s most powerful body, the Security Council, has been blocked from taking any action because Russia has veto power as one of its five permanent members. Even so, the 15-member council has held eight meetings on Ukraine, as Western powers strive to keep up the pressure on Moscow.

The draft resolution reaffirms that under the UN Charter all states must refrain “from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, and to settle their international disputes by peaceful means”.

It would also affirm the General Assembly’s “commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.” And it would call on all states “to desist and refrain from ... any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.”