UN General Assembly Rejects Crimea Annexation

A majority of UN member states told Moscow Thursday that they will not recognize the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

In a vote on a resolution put forward by Ukraine and nearly 50 co-sponsors, 100 member states reaffirmed their support for Ukraine's unity and territorial sovereignty. They also underscored that the March 16 referendum in the Crimea region was invalid. That referendum was watched over by Russian troops and led to Crimea's annexation by Moscow last week.

Ukraine's interim foreign minister, Andrii Deshchytsia, told the meeting that Russia's actions violate the UN Charter.

"Many still struggle to grasp the reality -- it happened in Ukraine, in the very heart of Europe. It happened in the 21st century," said Deshchytsia.

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding like Security Council ones, but they do carry the moral weight of the international community.

Many delegations expressed support for Ukraine, including the United States. Ambassador Samantha Power said the resolution supports the belief that "borders are not mere suggestions."

"We have always said that Russia had legitimate interests in Ukraine; it has been disheartening in the extreme to see Russia carry on as if Ukrainians have no legitimate interests in Crimea, when Crimea is a part of Ukraine," said Power.

The 28 nations of the European Union expressed united support for Kyiv. European Union Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting said the bloc condemned Russia's military aggression.

"The European Union urges Russia to take steps to de-escalate the crisis, immediately withdraw its forces back to their pre-crisis numbers and garrisons in line with its international commitments; avail itself of all relevant international mechanisms to find a peaceful and negotiated solution in full respect of its bilateral and multilateral commitments to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Mayr-Harting.

Ten countries sided with Moscow in voting 'no,' including Syria, North Korea and Cuba.

Among the countries abstaining were China and several African and Latin American countries. Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin said the resolution was "confrontational" and unnecessary and told reporters that the 58 abstentions show increasing support for Russia's position.

"Even though this resolution which we opposed was adopted by the General Assembly, I think it is a moral victory for the Russian diplomacy because an increasing number of countries are beginning to understand the complexity of the situation and the motives behind the actions of Crimea and the Russian Federation," said Churkin.

But speaking to VOA after the vote, the Ukrainian foreign minister disagreed, saying support is growing globally for his country.

"The International community support is growing and becoming wider and more concrete," said Deshchytsia.

He said that support includes economic sanctions that the European Union and United States have imposed on Russian individuals and former Ukrainian officials.

VOA News / Mar. 28, 2014 07:49 KST