In a vote that reaffirmed Ukraine’s unity and territorial integrity, the United Nations General Assembly today adopted a measure underscoring that the mid-March referendum in Crimea that led to the peninsula’s annexation by Russia “has no validity” and that the parties should “pursue immediately a peaceful resolution of the situation.”
By a vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the 193-member Assembly called on all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol on the basis of the 16 March referendum “and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.”
Action in the Assembly follows months of ratcheting tensions in Ukraine triggered by the Government's decision last November not to sign an agreement on broader European integration. The capital, Kiev, erupted in violent demonstrations and street clashes in late January, culminating in the removal by Parliament of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Tensions continued to mount in the Crimea region, where Russian troops and armoured vehicles were deployed in February and a secession referendum was later held, in which, according to the UN, Crimean authorities announced that close to 97 per cent of those who voted did so in favour of the region joining Russia.
Subsequently, Crimea declared its independence, which in turn was recognized by Russia. In the immediate aftermath of those events, President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to make Crimea part of Russia, while the Government in Kiev committed to never accept Crimea’s independence or annexation.
Throughout, the UN has continued to press for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and other senior officials having visited the region, including Moscow and Crimea, over the past three weeks.
The UN Security Council convened seven sessions on the situation in Ukraine, and at its eighth meeting, Russia, one of the 15-nation body’s permanent members, blocked action by voting against a draft resolution that would have urged countries not to recognize the results of the referendum in Crimea.
The non-binding text adopted by the Assembly today contained similar language, underscoring that the referendum held in Crimea has no validity and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea or of the city of Sevastopol. It calls on all States to “desist and refrain” from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of Ukraine’s national unity and territorial integrity, “including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.”
Finally, the Assembly resolution makes explicit reference to the primacy of the UN Charter’s call for the preservation of the unity and territorial integrity of all UN Member States, and also recalls the 1994 Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and Russian, and other bilateral agreements between Ukraine and Russia.