UN General Assembly declares Crimea secession vote invalid
The U.N. General Assembly on Thursday passed a non-binding resolution declaring invalid Crimea\’s Moscow-backed referendum earlier this month on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.
Meanwhile, in Washington on Thursday, the House of Representatives and the Senate approved similar $1 billion aid packages for Ukraine.
The measures formally impose sanctions against some of Russian President Vladimir Putin\’s closest advisers for supporting Moscow\’s annexation of Crimea. The House and Senate bills must be reconciled before they can go to President Barack Obama for his signature.
One hundred countries voted for the Ukraine-sponsored U.N. resolution, 11 opposed it and 58 abstained. Unlike measures in the more powerful Security Council, General Assembly resolutions cannot be vetoed, but they are not legally binding.
It comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a loan deal with Ukraine worth $14-18bn.
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 US President Barack Obama warning on Wednesday of "deeper" EU and US sanctions against Russia if it carried out further incursions in Ukraine.
President Obama said the IMF announcement, which would unlock a further $10bn in loans for Ukraine, was a "major step forward" to help stabilise the country\’s economy and meet the long-term needs of its people.
Russia, as one of five permanent members of the Security Council with veto power, has blocked action there condemning its Crimean annexation. Russia added Crimea to its map after the peninsula\’s largely Russian-speaking population voted massively earlier this month to leave Ukraine for Russia.
Before the General Assembly vote, Ukraine\’s foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsia, said Russia had "ruthlessly trampled" its territorial integrity in the Crimean takeover.
Russia\’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, called for rejection of the measure, saying it was "confrontational in nature." Churkin said the Crimeans had voiced their right to self-determination in wanting to join Russia.
Also on Thursday, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said she planned to run for president of Ukraine in the elections expected to take place on 25 May.
Tymoshenko, who has already served twice as prime minister and ran for president in 2010, said she would stand as "a candidate for Ukrainian unity".
She was released after serving three years in jail on corruption charges, following the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.
More than 100 people were killed during protests which overthrew pro-Kremlin President Yanukovych in February.