West criticises UN draft resolution tabled by Russia calling for Ukraine ceasefire

US describes Russia's draft UN resolution calling for an humanitarian corridor as "hypocritical" as western delegates contrast it with Moscow's blocking of similar resolutions on Syria

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 10:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 10:47am

A Russian draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and a humanitarian corridor met with criticism from the West and cool response at the United Nations Security Council on Monday.

Moscow drafted the resolution at the start of its month-long presidency of the Council as Western powers want to enforce humanitarian corridors in Syria – a prospect blocked by Russia.

Moscow said it wanted to stop the violence in Ukraine, which has escalated between pro-Russian separatists and government forces, but its resolution met with strong rebuke from Washington.

The US State Department said it was “hypocritical” given that Russia was doing “nothing” to stop Russian-backed separatists from attacking new targets and holding Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors hostage.

“So if they’re going to call for, would support a reduction in tensions and a de-escalation, it would be more effective for them to end those activities,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Washington says the uprising in Ukraine is being directed by Moscow. On the ground on Monday hundreds of pro-Russian gunmen struck a Ukrainian border guard camp with mortar and grenade launchers in one of the biggest offensives of the insurgency yet.

Russia is essentially isolated at the United Nations on Ukraine. In a non-binding resolution in March, the General Assembly refused to recognise its annexation of Crimea.

Russia vetoed a similar resolution in the Security Council, which was approved by 13 other members. China abstained.

A copy of Monday’s draft resolution seen by reporters demands “the immediate cessation of hositilities” and urges those fighting “to commit themselves to a sustainable ceasefire”.

It demands the creation of humanitarian corridors to allow civilians who wish, to leave areas of hostilities safely and ensure the unhindered delivery of humanitarian access.

British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after the hour-long, closed consultations that there was little support for the text of the resolution as it stands.

“No one is under food shortages, there’s no besieging of cities so it’s not quite clear what the scale or crisis is that would justify humanitarian corridors,” he said.

Another Western diplomat suggested that Russia introduced the resolution to distract Council members from ongoing discussions on how to enforce humanitarian corridors in Syria.

With paltry support, the diplomat said the text would probably be kicked into the long grass and quickly forgotten.

Moscow has four times vetoed Western resolutions on Syria, protecting close ally Damascus and paralysing Council efforts to end a war that has killed more than 160,000 people.

“Certainly, after resistance to any sensible action on humanitarian issues in Syria, to propose something on Ukraine is a little bit ironic to say the least,” Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite told reporters on her way into the talks.

“We don’t need a draft resolution. The only thing they can do is basically disown the rebels, stop supplies, stop financing, disassociate with them completely and I think the issues will be solved within a very short period of time,” she added.

Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the resolution had received “some positive support” but that Moscow had not yet decided its next move in terms of working on the text.

“However others were, I think, asking so many questions that if you try to answer them then we’ll be talking about things for weeks,” he told reporters.

Churkin refused to draw parallels with Syria, saying that Russia was traditionally opposed to chapter seven resolutions but would support a local agreement on humanitarian corridors in Syria.

“The very fact that the resolution on Ukraine is tabled by the Russian Federation is cynical and immoral,” hit back Ukrainian envoy Yuriy Sergeyev, accusing Russia of sponsoring terrorism.