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United Nations: Resolution Declares Crimea Referendum Invalid

(Apr. 2, 2014) On March 27, 2014, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution declaring invalid the March 16 Crimean referendum to secede from Ukraine. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 100 Member States in favor and 11 against, with 58 abstentions. (Press Release, GA11493, General Assembly General Assembly Adopts Resolution Calling Upon States Not to Recognize Changes in Status of Crimea Region (Mar. 27, 2014).) The non-binding text was presented by Ukraine’s Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and put forward by Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. (Id.; Resolutions: 68th Session, General Assembly of the United Nations website [scroll down to A/RES/68/262 and click on A/68/L. 39 to view Territorial Integrity of Ukraine (Draft Resolution of Mar. 24, 2014)].)

The resolution on Territorial Integrity of Ukraine affirms the General Assembly’s “commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.” (Territorial Integrity of Ukraine, supra.) It called upon states “to desist and refrain from actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.” (Id.) It also called upon states, international organizations, and specialized agencies “not to recognize any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol” on the basis of the March 16 referendum “and to refrain from any action or dealing that might be interpreted as recognizing any such altered status.” (Id.) The resolution emphasized that the referendum, “having no validity, cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the city of Sevastopol.” (Id.)

The resolution urged the immediate pursuit of a peaceful resolution by all parties to the situation by means of direct political dialogue. It also urged them “to exercise restraint, and to refrain from unilateral actions and inflammatory rhetoric that may increase tensions, and to engage fully with international mediation efforts … .” (Id.)

In the debate before the vote on the resolution, many U.N. Member States are said to have declared that “the referendum had contravened international law, the United Nations Charter and Ukraine’s Constitution” and to have emphasized “that they would neither recognize it nor the Russian Federation’s subsequent illegal annexation of Crimea.” (Press Release, supra.)

However, Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian Federation’s U.N. ambassador, stated, “[w]e call on everyone to respect that voluntary choice” of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, adding that the Russian government “could not refuse Crimeans their right to self-determination.” (Id.)