Russia seeks secret UN vote on condemning Ukraine annexation

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UNITED NATIONS: Russia has called for a secret vote next week on a Western-backed resolution that would condemn its “illegal annexation attempt” 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 to condemn the annexation referendums in the four Ukrainian regions as illegal, declare them invalid, and urge all countries not to recognize any annexation of territory claimed by Moscow. .
The United States and Albania, which sponsored the resolution, have promised to take the issue to all UN members in the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes but resolutions are not legally binding.
“Unless the international community reacts,” European Union Ambassador to the UN Olof Skoog said on Wednesday, “there may be claims that no one is paying attention and this is now carte blanche for other countries to do the same or acknowledge what Russia has done.”
The General Assembly has announced that its emergency special session on Ukraine will resume on Monday afternoon, when the draft resolution will be introduced. Diplomats said they expect speeches from member nations to continue on Tuesday, with a vote on the resolution likely on Wednesday.
Votes on resolutions at the world body are traditionally public and are illuminated by different colored lights on a large board bearing the name of each country.
But Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said in a six-page letter to all other UN ambassadors obtained by The Associated Press that the UN’s legal adviser has confirmed that the General Assembly can use a secret ballot. “in making decisions”.
In addition to demanding that Russia withdraw its annexation of Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson Y Zaporizhiathe draft resolution would declare that Moscow’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and are “inconsistent” with the principles of the UN Charter.
The proposed resolution says that the annexations also “have no validity under international law and do not form the basis for any alteration of 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 for the peaceful resolution of the conflict…through political dialogue, negotiations, mediation and other peaceful means.
Russia’s call for a secret vote on the resolution is the latest step in the escalating confrontation between Moscow and the United States and its European allies over the February 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 Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions, saying they were now part of Russia and would be defended by Moscow.
Putin signed the final documents on Wednesday to annex the four regions, and in a defiant move, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov kept the door open for more land grabs in Ukraine, saying “certain territories will be reclaimed and we will continue to consult residents who would be anxious.” embrace Russia.
ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy responded to the annexation by announcing Ukraine’s accelerated application to join NATO.
In a decree published Tuesday, he also ruled out negotiations with Russia, stating that Putin’s actions made it impossible to speak with the Russian leader.
In her letter to UN member states, Russia’s Nebenzia called the attempt by the US and its allies to have the General Assembly condemn the referendums as “a clearly politicized and provocative event aimed at deepening the divide” between the countries. UN members.
He stated that Western actions have nothing to do with the protection of international law and the UN Charter, and are only to “pursue their own geopolitical goals”, citing Western “double standards” in backing Kosovo’s declaration of independence. of 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 that Moscow understands the “enormous pressure” that the United States and its allies will exert on other countries to support the resolution, and “we also understand that in such circumstances it can be very difficult if positions are expressed publicly.”
Therefore, he said, Russia proposes a secret ballot and asks member states to support the initiative.
When asked for her reaction to the Russian move, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield replied: “No comment.”
While the Security Council has been hampered from taking action on Ukraine due to Russia’s veto power, the General Assembly has passed three resolutions.
It 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 140-5 with 38 abstentions on a resolution that blames Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and protection for millions of civilians and the homes, schools and hospitals critical to their survival. .
But the assembly voted by a much narrower margin on April 7 to suspend Russia from the world organization’s top human rights body, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, over allegations that Russian soldiers in Ukraine committed human rights violations. rights that the United States and Ukraine have. called war crimes. The vote was 93-24 with 58 abstentions.

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