New York, USA – The General Assembly adopted resolutions dealing with prevention of armed conflict and foreign policy, including one urging the Russian Federation to withdraw from Crimea. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea and to withdraw from Ukraine.

“It urges the Russian Federation, as the occupying Power, to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine without delay,” the UN said in a statement on the nonbinding resolution.

The representative of Ukraine who introduced the related text said that by occupying Crimea, Russia is violating international law, and threatening “peace and security well beyond the Black Sea region.”

In the meantime, the Russian side called the text “politicized” and added that Crimean people had decided their future via a referendum. Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea after a controversial referendum.

Turkey as well as the UN General Assembly viewed the annexation as illegal. Ukraine has also blamed Russia for separatist violence in eastern Ukraine near the border with Russia.

By a vote of 63 in favour to 17 against, with 62 abstentions, it adopted the resolution “Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov” (document A/75/L.38/Rev.1). Through that text, it urged the Russian Federation, as the occupying Power, to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine without delay.

Ukraine’s representative, who introduced the text, said that by occupying Crimea and turning it into a powerful military outpost, the Russian Federation is violating international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Moscow’s growing military presence on the peninsula represents a threat to peace and security well beyond the Black Sea region, he added.

The Russian Federation’s representative, in an explanation of position before the vote, underscored the politicized nature of the draft. For a third year, he said, the Assembly was being distracted by a text put forth by Ukraine, even though the people of Crimea have already decided its future through a referendum.

The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Assembly also considered the draft resolution titled “Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov” (document A/75/L.38/Rev.1). Through that text, the Assembly would urge the Russian Federation, as the occupying Power, to immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine without delay. It would call on Member States and relevant international organizations to cooperate with the United Nations to encourage and support efforts to end to the Russian occupation of Crimea, and call upon all Member States, international organizations and specialized agencies to refrain from any visits to Crimea that are not agreed with Ukraine.

Sergiy Kyslytsya (Ukraine), introducing “L.38/Rev.1”, said the text raises a matter of fundamental concern, not only for his country but for the United Nations membership at large. By occupying Crimea and turning it into a powerful military outpost, the Russian Federation is violating international law and the Charter of the United Nations. The peninsula remains inaccessible for inspection or verification missions under relevant international treaties. The Russian Federation is expanding the land, air and naval components of its presence, representing a threat to peace and security well beyond the Black Sea region, with the capability of reaching southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Former nuclear weapons sites have been seized, warships built, military exercises carried out and the local population conscripted into the Russian Federation armed forces. When the Russian Federation’s delegation takes the floor, it will once again say that the issue of Crimea is closed, but the fact is that that country has brutally violated the Budapest Memorandum and that Crimea is part of Ukraine.

The representative of the Russian Federation, underscoring the politicized nature of the draft, said his delegation will vote against it. The Assembly is distracted for the third year by this draft but Crimea has already decided its own future in a referendum. Ukrainian authorities disagree with the referendum referenced in this document, which itself is “full of lies”.

The representative of Azerbaijan said the United Nations is a critical pillar of multilateralism, ensuring all concerned uphold principles of international peace, stability and development. Azerbaijan voted in favour of General Assembly resolution 68/262 (2014) upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and its position remains unchanged. Strict compliance with those norms is of the greatest importance to international peace and security.

The representative of Denmark, speaking in explanation of position, also on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, condemned in the strongest possible terms the illegal annexation of Crimea and interference in the territorial integrity of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. He also cited the transfer of highly destabilizing weapons systems and personnel, urging the Russian Federation to arrest such measures as they undermine the Black Sea region. He further cited negative treatment of the Crimean Tatar population and condemned forced conscription of Crimeans into Russian Federation forces. There is an urgent need for unimpeded access by United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe (OSCE). The Russian Federation must withdraw its forces and end the illegal occupation without delay. His delegation will never accept any change to another State’s borders by force.

The representative of the United Kingdom affirmed support for the independent sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its borders, as actions therein by the Russian Federation have grave implications for the international order that protects the sovereignty of all States. The United Kingdom does not and will not recognize the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. She condemned the transfer of destabilizing weapons systems including nuclear-capable aircraft into that territory by the Russian Federation, strengthening of its Black Sea maritime forces, the conscription of Crimeans into its forces, and educational indoctrination of children there. Also noting that in November 2018, the Russian Federation seized three Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait, injuring several Ukrainian crew members, she stressed it continues to display disregard for Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The representative of Singapore said that while her delegation supported “L.38/Rev.1”, it would have preferred a more succinct text. All countries must adhere to international law and support the right to freedom of navigation as provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The representative of the United States, delivering a general statement on “L.38/Rev.1”, said that nearly seven years into the Russian Federation’s occupation of Crimea, its increased military presence represents a growing threat to common security. His country does not recognize the Russian Federation’s purported annexation of Crimea, he said, adding: “Crimea is Ukraine.”

Speaking in a point of order, the representative of the Russian Federation expressed regret over the vote just completed, because of its absurd content and lack of impact on Crimea’s position. Ukraine is simply acquiring one more reason to trick its population and the Assembly has become a partner in this process. He called on all to think of the lives of ordinary Ukrainians and their Government’s imposition of a destructive economic and social policy. He then made apologies to several affected by the Molotov/Ribbentrop during the Second World War, including hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews.

Also speaking in a point of order, the representative of Ukraine expressed regret that the Russian Federation’s statement was not a point of order, but simply a statement in abuse of the meeting. If the Russian Federation is criticizing the draft, this only shows that Ukraine is doing the right thing. He reminded Moscow that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin condemned the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact 11 years ago, calling it an immoral pact with the Nazis. The Russian Federation’s refusal to condemn it and recognize it as a pact with the Nazis suggests that Moscow is backsliding and abandoning democratic values.

The representative of the European Union said his delegation will not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation. The bloc is committed to the principle of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its borders, and considers the annexation a breach of international law and violation of the Charter of the United Nations, which prohibits use of force against any State. Those actions also violate the Russian Federation’s bilateral commitments, including the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. He emphasized the so‑called referendum held in Crimea on March 2014 has no legal validity and is in breach of the Ukraine constitution, calling on all Member States to remain steadfast in non‑recognition of the annexation as per General Assembly Resolution 68/262 (2014). Condemning the deployment of highly destabilizing Russian Federation weapons systems and military personnel, and conscription of Crimeans into its forces, a breach of international humanitarian law, he said it is crucial for that State to withdraw its military forces and end the annexation without delay. Member States must also refrain from any dealings with the Russian Federation as they pertain to the Crimean Peninsula, and all monitoring mechanisms must have unimpeded and safe access to the territory. The European Union remains steadfast in its non‑recognition of the annexation.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the Soviet Union had been forced into pacts with Adolf Hitler. Moreover, it is blasphemous to equate the Nazi occupation with the Soviet Union, he said, calling upon Ukraine to refrain from continuing a discussion that its representative would later come to regret.

Crimean Tatars rally to remember 1944 deportations. Protestors in Turkey say Russia now repeating repression, persecution carried out 76 years before.

Hundreds of Crimean Tatars gathered in Turkey’s capital to commemorate the 76th anniversary of their deportation by the Soviet Union and the second anniversary of Crimea’s occupation. Today, Russia is repeating in the region the repression and persecution carried out 76 years before.

On 18 May 1944, tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars were deported to Central Asia by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime, which accused them of having collaborated with occupying Nazi forces.

Around 180,000 people were deported to various regions within the Soviet territory, in particular Siberia and Uzbekistan. Almost half of the exiles, who endured long months of dire living conditions, are thought to have died of starvation and disease.

This 30-year exile continued until 1987, when the Soviet government allowed 2,300 Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland. Another 19,300 people followed in 1988.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014. Since then, the region’s Tatar minority has complained of repression, including arbitrary arrests and detentions.

The Crimean Tatar Mejlis was banned by the Supreme Court of Crimea in April as an “extremist organization” following a prosecution application lodged. Crimean Tatars would “continue to fight” against “unjustified invasion” of Ukraine. Various events are being held in Turkey and Ukraine in remembrance of the deportations.