US Challenges Security Council Members to Take a Stand Against Russia’s ‘Sham’ Referendums

Patrick Goodenough | September 28, 2022 | 4:23am EDT
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The United Nations Security Council meets in New York. (Photo by Ed Jones / AFP via Getty Images)
The United Nations Security Council meets in New York. (Photo by Ed Jones / AFP via Getty Images)

( – As voting on joining Russia drew to a close in four Russian-held Ukrainian regions on Tuesday, the U.S. moved to introduce a U.N. Security Council resolution urging governments of the world not to recognize any attempt to further alter the status of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield acknowledged that Russia would likely use the veto power it wields as a permanent member to kill the measure, but expressed the hope that other council members would take a stand.

Voting has taken place over five days in Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine (both mostly controlled by Russian proxies since 2014), and in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south (captured by Russian forces soon after the invasion began in February).

Amid claims of massive support for joining Russia, the anticipated outcome will be a move by President Vladimir Putin to annex the regions on the strength of the purported results – possibly as soon as Friday – as he did in the case of Crimea in 2014.

“We know the outcome of these … sham referenda were predetermined in Moscow,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters at U.N. headquarters after a Security Council meeting on Tuesday.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at U.N. headquarters in New York City. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield at U.N. headquarters in New York City. (Photo by Timothy A. Clary / AFP via Getty Images)

She said she hoped the resolution would be brought to a vote later this week or early next week.

Of particular interest will be the stances adopted by China, also a permanent member, and by several non-permanent members – including India, which in three U.N. votes relating to the invasion last March and April chose to abstain rather than taking a position.

The other current non-permanent members are Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, and the United Arab Emirates. Albania is co-sponsoring the resolution with the U.S.

“We are putting forward a resolution, with Albania, that condemns these sham referenda, calls on all states to not recognize any altered status of Ukraine, and obligates Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine immediately,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

“Now, we know how one country will feel about this resolution,” she said. “But we’re hoping to see the rest of the council stand strong in refusing to accept the redrawing of borders through the use of force, by any country.”

If Russia “uses its veto to shield itself from accountability,” she said, the U.S. would look to the General Assembly instead to send a clear message to Moscow. The General Assembly comprises all 193 U.N. member-states, and no member has a veto.

During the council meeting, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia hinted that Russia could seek to annex more Ukrainian territory – beyond the four areas now in the spotlight – “if Ukraine doesn’t recognize its strategic errors.”

Thomas-Greenfield said in response to a question there was little doubt that that could happen.

“They did it in 2014, and now they’re doing it again,” she said. “So I have no doubts in my mind that they will attempt to do it, and that’s why it’s so important that we stand against this immediately.”

In her statement to the council, the ambassador characterized the referendum scheme as a direct challenge to the principles of the U.N. Charter.

“Russia’s sham referenda, if accepted, will open a Pandora’s box that we cannot close. We ask you to join us in reaffirming our commitment to the U.N. Charter and meeting this challenge head-on,” she said.

‘Severe and swift costs’

During the meeting, the U.N. Secretariat also voiced opposition to potential attempts to annex more Ukrainian territory.

“The United Nations remains fully committed to the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally-recognized borders,” said U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo.

Ukraine’s “internationally-recognized borders” encompass not just the four regions where voting has been taking place over the last five days, but also Crimea.

When Putin annexed the strategic peninsula in 2014, just ten other countries sided with Russia when the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling the move illegal. The ten were Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Western governments are warning that Russia can expect new sanctions if it goes ahead with further annexations.

Not waiting for the process to unfold, Britain has already announced sanctions against 33 Russian proxies in the four areas in Ukraine where voting has been taking place, as part of a broader package targeting 92 Russian individuals and entities.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, visiting Kyiv on Tuesday, warned that new European sanctions were coming. Dismissing the referendums as a “masquerade,” she asked, “how can you expect people to express themselves freely under duress, and in territories occupied by a foreign power?”

‘We’ve been very clear that we are prepared and we will impose additional severe and swift costs on Russia for proceeding with the annexations,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the State Department.

He reaffirmed that the U.S. does and will continue to support Ukrainian efforts to use military means to “take back the territory that has been illegally seized one way or another by Russia.”

“And the equipment, the weapons that we and many other countries are providing them have been used very effectively to do just that,” Blinken said, “as we’ve seen in northeast Ukraine and as we see as well in the south.”


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