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UN Passes Resolution Calling Crimean Referendum Invalid

Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin (center) leaves the General Assembly after a vote on a draft resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin (center) leaves the General Assembly after a vote on a draft resolution on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution on the "territorial integrity of Ukraine" declaring Crimea's recent secession vote invalid.

One hundred countries voted in favor of the resolution, with 11 against and 58 abstaining.

The 11 that opposed the resolution were Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

While Armenia voted against the resolution, Azerbaijan voted in favor. Azerbaijan says the Nagorno-Karabakh territory currently under Armenian control rightfully belongs to Azerbaijan.

Ukraine said ahead of the vote that it would preserve diplomatic ties with Armenia no matter how Yerevan voted at the UN.

Among the other countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States, Moldova voted in favor of the resolution, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan abstained. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan did not vote.

Ukraine's acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya was the first speaker at the session ahead of the vote.

He said international security agreements have been "seriously compromised" by Russia's unrecognized annexation of Crimea.

"For a month now all possible and impossible boundaries of international law, so laboriously nourished by the mankind, especially by this institution, have been ruthlessly trampled," he said. "What has happened in my country is a direct violation of 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."

Deshchytsya accused Russia of taking advantage of Ukraine's fledgling government.

"This aggression was meticulously calibrated to strike at the time when Ukraine was forming [its] inclusive government," he said. "Now, despite all odds, such a government is up and running. [The invasion] was also aimed and is still aiming to undermine [the] presidential election in my country. Let me assure you that Ukraine is determined to carry on with holding elections as scheduled on May 25."

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Deshchytsya speech was followed by an address to the assembly from Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who defended his country's actions.

"Russia's stance towards the proposed draft resolution of the General Assembly is negative," he said ahead of the vote. "The draft resolution is confrontational. The draft aims to cast doubt over the Crimean referendum that has already played its historical role. It is counterproductive to dispute it. At the same time let me point out that the draft does contain a number of fair elements, for example a call to refrain from unilateral actions and rhetoric of incitement that may lead to an escalation of tension. We consider that no additional resolutions are necessary in order to heed this call."

Churkin added that "legitimate government ceased to exist" in Kyiv since former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was "forced to vacate" the country.

The European Union's UN representative, Thomas Mayr-Harting, denounced the use of force to redraw borders and "condemns Russian actions that are in clear breach of the UN Charter."

Also speaking ahead of the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power told the General Assembly that "the resolution before us is about one thing and one thing only -- affirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine."

Unlike the Security Council, General Assembly resolutions are not subject to vetoes nor are they legally binding but they do reflect world opinion.
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