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In a new resolution, the UN General Assembly has declared the Moscow-backed referendum that led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal.
The move comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a loan deal with Ukraine worth $14-18 billion.
The US Congress also passed legislation on Thursday backing a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine.
Tensions are high between Russia and the West after pro-Russian troops annexed Ukraine’s southern peninsula.
The West has widely condemned the move, with President Barack Obama warning on Wednesday of “deeper” EU and US sanctions against Russia if it carried out further incursions in Ukraine.
UN General Assembly has declared the Moscow-backed referendum that led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal
One hundred countries voted in favor of approving a UN General Assembly resolution declaring the Crimean referendum on March 16 illegal and affirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Eleven nations voted against, with 58 abstentions.
“This support has come from all corners of the world which shows that this (is) not only a regional matter but a global one,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia told reporters after the vote.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said “the fact that almost half” of the UN General Assembly members had not supported the resolution was “a very encouraging trend and I think this trend will become stronger and stronger”.
Given that the resolution was non-binding, the vote was largely symbolic.
But Ukraine hopes the resolution will act as a deterrent and dissuade Moscow from making further incursions into its territory.
Barack Obama said the IMF announcement, which would unlock a further $10 billion in loans for Ukraine, was a “major step forward” to help stabilize the country’s economy and meet the long-term needs of its people.
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The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea.
The moves follow Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, in which officials say 97% of voters backed breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia.
The individuals targeted by the sanctions are seen as having played a key role in the referendum, which Kiev, the US and EU deem illegal.
Pro-Russian forces have been in control of Crimea since late February.
Moscow says the troops are pro-Russian self-defense forces and not under its direct control.
The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea
President Barack Obama said in a press conference that Washington stood “ready to impose further sanctions” depending on whether Russia escalated or de-escalated the situation in Ukraine.
If Moscow continued to intervene in Ukraine, Barack Obama warned, it would “achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world”.
The EU published a list of sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels. The list includes the acting prime minister of Crimea, the speaker of Crimea’s parliament, three senior Russian commanders and several senior Russian parliamentary officials.
Selection of officials targeted:
- Dmitry Rogozin – Russian deputy PM (US)
- Valentina Matviyenko – head of Russia’s upper house (US)
- Sergei Aksyonov – acting PM of Crimea (US and EU)
- Vladimir Konstantinov – speaker of Crimean parliament (US and EU)
- Viktor Yanukovych – former Ukrainian president (US)
- Andrei Klishas – member of Russia’s upper house (US and EU)
- Leonid Slutsky – head of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) parliamentary committee in Russia (US and EU)
- Sergei Zheleznyak – deputy speaker of Russia’s state Duma (EU)
- Alexsandr Vitko – commander of Black Sea Fleet (EU) [youtube HRY6OyI5F0k 650]
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Crimea referendum showed support for a split from Ukraine with election officials saying that 96.6% of voters backed joining Russia.
The government in Kiev described the vote as a “circus performance” and said it would not recognize the result.
The EU and US say the referendum was illegal, but Russia says it was consistent with international law.
President Barack Obama has warned Moscow that Washington is also ready to impose “costs” over its actions in Ukraine.
Crimea PM Sergei Aksyonov celebrated referendum results
As polls closed on Sunday night, the White House said the international community “will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence”, describing Russia’s actions as “dangerous and destabilizing”.
The new authorities in Kiev say Russian troops moved in to Crimea after Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted following months of street protests.
Crimean leaders are expected to formally apply to the Kremlin on Monday to join Russia.
The Russian parliament had been expected to wait until Friday to begin debating the relevant legislation. It is now believed the process of absorbing Crimea could take place under existing laws.
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After half the votes have been counted, some 95.5% of voters in Crimea have supported joining Russia in a disputed referendum, officials announce.
Crimea’s leader Sergei Aksyonov says he will apply to join Russia on Monday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will respect the Crimean people’s wishes.
Many Crimeans loyal to Kiev boycotted the referendum, and the EU and US condemned it as illegal.
Pro-Russian forces took control of Crimea in February.
Some 95.5 percent of voters in Crimea have supported joining Russia in a disputed referendum
They moved in after Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president was ousted by street protests.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama had spoken over the phone and agreed to seek a way to stabilize Ukraine.
Shortly after polling stations closed, however, the US renewed its threat to put sanctions on Russia.
White House spokesman Jay Carney condemned the vote as “dangerous and destabilizing” and said it would have “increasing costs for Russia”.
The EU said in a statement that the vote was “illegal and illegitimate and its outcome will not be recognized”.
EU foreign ministers are due to meet on Monday and are expected to consider imposing sanctions on Russian officials.
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The draft UN resolution criticizing Sunday’s secession referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region has been vetoed by Russia.
Russia is the only Security Council member to vote against the measure.
China, regarded as a Russian ally on the issue, abstained from the vote.
Western powers criticized Russia’s veto over the referendum, which will ask Crimeans if they want to rejoin Russia.
Meanwhile, Kiev has accused Russian forces of seizing a village just north of Crimea and demanded they withdraw.
Ukraine’s foreign ministry said 80 military personnel backed by four helicopter gunships and three armored vehicles had taken the village of Strilkove.
An unnamed Russian official quoted by Pravda-Ukraine said they had taken action to protect a gas distribution station from “terrorist attacks”.
Russia intervened in the Crimean peninsula after the fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych on February 22.
Russia’s envoy Vitaly Churkin told the Security Council he would vote against the resolution
The Crimean region was part of Russia until 1954 and most of its residents are ethnic Russians, many of whom would prefer to be governed by Moscow rather than Kiev.
Russia’s Black Sea fleet is also still housed in Crimea.
But Russia has signed agreements promising to uphold Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Crimea’s regional parliament instigated the secession referendum after lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to support rejoining Russia.
However, the national parliament in Kiev ruled the referendum unconstitutional, and earlier on Saturday voted to disband the regional assembly.
At the UN, 13 members of the Security Council backed a resolution that called for all nations to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and condemned the referendum as illegal.
Western diplomats had expected Russia to veto the document, but got what they wanted when China abstained.
China and Russia usually work in tandem at the Security Council.
But Beijing is sensitive about issues of territorial integrity, because of fears it could send a message to its own restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.
America’s UN envoy Samantha Power said it was a “sad and remarkable moment” and labeled Russia “isolated, alone and wrong”.
Samantha Power said Sunday’s referendum was “illegal, unjustified and divisive” and would have no effect on the legal status of Crimea.
Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin said the referendum was necessary to fill the “legal vacuum” since Ukraine’s “coup d’etat” last month.
Earlier in Moscow, tens of thousands rallied against Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the biggest such protest in two years.
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According to officials, two people have been killed in clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian activists in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv.
Five people were injured overnight, as gunshots were fired. Rival groups blamed each other for the violence.
Earlier, Russia and the US failed to agree on how to resolve the crisis in Ukraine’s Crimea region, ahead of a secession referendum there.
Russia vowed to respect Sunday’s vote – but the US said it was illegitimate.
Moscow has been tightening its military grip on Crimea – the southern autonomous republic in Ukraine – where voters are to decide on whether to re-join Russia or stay with Kiev.
The violence reportedly began on Kharkiv’s Svoboda Square on Friday evening and later moved to an office of a pro-Ukrainian group in the city.
Two people have been killed in clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian activists in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv
Eyewitnesses said that pro-Russian activists tried to storm the rival protesters, who had barricaded themselves in.
The witnesses said that shots had been fired and Molotov cocktails thrown in.
Kharkiv Mayor Hennadiy Kernes was later quoted by Ukrainian media as saying that two people were killed and five injured.
Meanwhile, Kharkiv Governor Ihor Baluta called the incident “a provocation”.
Both rival groups blame each other for starting the clashes. A criminal investigation is now under way.
This follows Thursday night’s violence in Donetsk, also in the east, where at least one person died in fighting between a pro-Russian crowd and supporters of the new government in Kiev.
Ukraine accuses Russia of using provocateurs to stoke unrest on the eastern border. Moscow denies this, vowing to protect its “compatriots” from far-right radicals.
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