Russia threatened several Eastern European and Central Asian countries with retaliation if they voted in favor of the UN resolution declaring the Crimea referendum invalid.
Territorial Integrity of Ukraine:
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Russia threatened several Eastern European and Central Asian states with retaliation if they voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution this week declaring invalid Crimea’s referendum on seceding from Ukraine, U.N. diplomats said.
The disclosures about Russian threats came after Moscow accused Western countries of using “shameless pressure, up to the point of political blackmail and economic threats,” in an attempt to coerce the United Nations’ 193 member states to join it in supporting the non-binding resolution on the Ukraine crisis.
According to interviews with U.N. diplomats, most of whom preferred to speak on condition of anonymity for fear of angering Moscow, the targets of Russian threats included Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as a number of African countries.
A spokesman for Russia’s Mission to the U.N. denied that Moscow threatened any country with retaliation if it supported the resolution, saying: “We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation.”
According to the diplomats, the Russian threats were not specific. But they said it was clear to the recipients of the warnings not to support the resolution that retaliatory measures could include steps such as expelling migrant workers from Russia, halting natural gas supplies or banning certain imports to Russia to cause economic harm.
In the end, the Ukrainian resolution declaring Crimea’s vote on March 16 in favor of seceding from Ukraine as having “no validity” passed with 100 votes in favor, 11 against and 58 abstentions. Another 24 U.N. member states did not cast votes.
Western diplomats called the result a diplomatic success for Ukraine. A similar General Assembly vote was held in 2008 after Russia went to war with Georgia over its breakaway enclave South Ossetia, which later declared independence and has unsuccessfully sought annexation to Russia. That resolution was adopted with a mere 14 votes in favor, 11 against and 105 abstentions.
Although the General Assembly resolution is non-binding – unlike Security Council resolutions – Russia and the Western powers went to great efforts to persuade delegations to vote with them. Earlier this month, Russia vetoed a resolution in the Security Council that was similar to the General Assembly text.
The United States and European delegations said the result of Thursday’s vote highlighted Russia’s isolation on the issue of Crimea.