By Karen DeYoung
The Washington Post
NEW YORK —
Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution Saturday declaring the upcoming referendum in Crimea illegal and invalid, and calling on all nations not to recognize its results nor any subsequent change in Crimea’s status.
The U.S.-drafted resolution, in anticipation of the near-certain passage of the referendum Sunday in the pro-Russian region of Ukraine, was designed to isolate Moscow and to warn it against moving to annex Crimea.
The outcome of the Security Council vote was a forgone conclusion, with 13 of the 15 members approving the resolution and China abstaining.
In comments after the vote, U.S. and European diplomats made clear their governments are prepared Monday to impose sanctions on Russia to protest the referendum, and many appeared to consider subsequent Russian annexation of Crimea a certainty.
“The international community will not recognize the result, nor any action taken on the basis of it,” Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan said.
To emphasize international solidarity behind the resolution, representatives from dozens of countries that are not members of the Security Council sat in the gallery during the meeting, most prominently the Eastern European nations that were once part of the Soviet Union and now below to Western institutions including NATO and the European Union.
“Today’s vote is a reflection of what Russia denies and the whole world knows,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters after the council session. The Ukraine crisis, she said, “came with a label: Made in Moscow. . . . Russia cannot veto the truth.”
In quickly drafting the measure, Obama administration officials debated whether to table a resolution before the referendum, or wait until after Sunday to try to marshal votes that would directly condemn Russia. The latter path was seen as more difficult, with some of the Security Council’s nonpermanent members less willing to take a stand.
Some of those members voiced discomfort even as they voted for the resolution.
“We are not convinced that the timing of this resolution is productive. . . . It is not a win or a loss to any of us, and should also not be taken as shaming any of us,” Rwanda’s representative said.
The vote was a particularly difficult one for China, which has tended to follow Russia’s lead on the council. Calling for calm and restraint, China said that the “resolution at this juncture will only result in confrontation and further complicate the situation” in Ukraine.
The meeting was the seventh Security Council meeting held since the Ukraine crisis exploded last month, when the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, fled the country amid growing violence between opposition and government forces. The Ukrainian parliament subsequently voted him out of office, and Western governments moved to supply economic and political support for pro-Western interim leaders.