Russia asks for a secret vote at the UN to condemn the annexation of Ukraine

Russia has called for a secret ballot vote next week on a Western-backed resolution that would condemn its “illegal annexation attempt” of part of four Ukrainian regions and demand that Moscow immediately reverse its actions. Russia apparently hopes to get more support from the 193 nations in the General Assembly if their votes are not public.

Russia vetoed what would have been a legally binding Security Council resolution on September 30 condemning annexation referendums in Ukraine’s four regions as illegal, declaring them invalid and urging all countries not to recognize any annexation territory claimed by Moscow.

The United States and Albania, which sponsored the resolution, pledged to take the issue to all UN members in the General Assembly, where there is no veto but resolutions are not not legally binding.

“Unless the international community reacts,” European Union Ambassador to the UN Olof Skoog said on Wednesday, “one can pretend that no one is paying attention and now it’s carte blanche for that other countries do the same or recognize what Russia has done”.

The General Assembly announced that its emergency special session on Ukraine would resume on Monday afternoon, when the draft resolution will be presented. Diplomats said they expect speeches from member countries to continue on Tuesday, with a vote on the resolution likely on Wednesday.

Votes on the world body’s resolutions are traditionally public and are illuminated by lights of different colors on a large panel bearing the name of each country.

But Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said in a six-page letter to all other UN ambassadors obtained by The Associated Press that the UN legal adviser had confirmed that a ballot secrecy could be used by the General Assembly “in decision-making”.

In addition to demanding that Russia rescind its annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the draft resolution would declare that Moscow’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and are “incompatible” with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

The proposed resolution also states that the annexations “have no validity under international law and do not constitute the basis for altering the status of these regions of Ukraine.”

It demands that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders…to allow a peaceful resolution of the conflict…through political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means”.

Russia’s call for a secret ballot vote on the resolution is the latest step in Moscow’s escalating confrontation with the United States and its European allies over its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s veto in the Security Council last Friday came hours after a lavish Kremlin ceremony in which President Vladimir Putin signed treaties to annex the Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, saying they were now part of of Russia and would be defended by Moscow.

Putin on Wednesday signed the final documents to annex the four regions and in a gesture of defiance, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov opened the door to further land grabs in Ukraine, saying that “some territories will be recovered, and we will continue to consult residents who are impatient”. to embrace Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded to the annexation by announcing Ukraine’s fast track application to join NATO. In an executive order issued on Tuesday, he also ruled out negotiations with Russia, saying Putin’s actions made any talks with the Russian leader impossible.

In his letter to UN member countries, Russia’s Nebenzia called the attempt by the United States and its allies to have the General Assembly condemn the referendums “a clearly politicized and provocative development aimed at deepening the gap” between member countries of the United Nations.

He claimed that Western actions had nothing to do with protecting international law and the UN Charter, and were only to “pursue their own geopolitical goals”, alleging Western “double standards” in supporting Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 without a referendum. .

Unlike Kosovo, Nebenzia said, the four Ukrainian regions “are now exposed to a real existential threat from Ukraine.”

The Russian ambassador said Moscow understands the “enormous pressure” the United States and its allies will exert on other countries to support the resolution, and “we also understand that under such circumstances it can be very difficult for positions to be expressed publicly”. Therefore, he said, Russia proposes a vote by secret ballot and calls on member states to support the initiative.

Asked about the reaction to the Russian decision, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield replied: “No comment.”

While the Security Council was prevented from taking action against Ukraine due to Russia’s right of veto, the General Assembly approved three resolutions.

He voted 141-5 with 35 abstentions on March 2 to demand an immediate Russian ceasefire, the withdrawal of all its forces and the protection of all civilians. On March 24, he voted 140 to 5 with 38 abstentions on a resolution blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and calling for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of millions of civilians and homes. , schools and hospitals essential to their survival.

But the assembly voted by a much narrower margin on April 7 to suspend Russia from the main human rights body of the world body, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, because of allegations that Russian soldiers in Ukraine have committed rights violations that the United States and Ukraine have called war crimes. The vote was 93 to 24 with 58 abstentions.

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Christi C. Elwood