Tags: Putin | Crimea | UN | dismiss

Putin Dismisses UN Crimea Vote as 68 Nations Waver

Image: Putin Dismisses UN Crimea Vote as 68 Nations Waver

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 10:27 AM

 

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Russia dismissed a United Nations resolution on its takeover of Crimea as "counter-productive," while the International Monetary Fund moved forward with a bailout to help Ukraine avoid insolvency.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said today that abstentions and absences from UN General Assembly members showed Thursday's non-binding resolution, which declared Crimea's March 16 referendum on leaving Ukraine and joining Russia as "having no validity," showed that not everyone supports that view.

The message is consistent with Russian President Vladimir Putin's rejection of condemnation and sanctions from the U.S. and its European allies over his country’s annexation of Crimea. President Barack Obama said in an interview that Putin is "certainly misreading American foreign policy" and urged him to pull back troops from Ukraine's border in what is the worst standoff between former Cold-War foes since the fall of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago.

"The wide range of positions among UN member states, the large number of abstentions and those not attending the vote serve as expressive testimony to the rejection of the one-sided version of what happened in Ukraine," the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement on its website.

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Backed by coverage from Russian state-run news channels that depict Ukraine as spiraling into chaos, Putin's government argues the annexation of Crimea saved the region from being overrun by fascists who are in control in Kiev and are oppressing the country's Russian-speaking minority.

Ukraine's government, which took over last month following the ouster of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych, rejects those allegations. U.S. officials have warned that a buildup of pro-Kremlin troops on Ukraine's eastern border may pose a risk that Russia may seek to carve off more of Ukraine's east and south.

Concern that Russia's economy would suffer from an extended confrontation over Ukraine with the U.S. and other nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has helped push the benchmark Micex Index down 10 percent this year. It rose 1.3 percent to 1,349.33 by 2:39 p.m. in Moscow, set for a 3.2 percent increase in the past five days.

 

Russia must pull back its troops, Obama said in an interview with CBS television Friday. He said Putin may be misreading the U.S. and European states, urging the Kremlin not to revert to Cold War practices.

"We have no interest in encircling Russia," Obama said.

Ukraine has completed a withdrawal from Crimea by troops who didn't want to join Russia, news service Interfax reported today, citing Putin. The president also agreed to return ships, planes, weapons and other equipment left behind in Crimea by departing Ukrainian military units, Interfax said.

Obama said that Russia's military, energy and financial industries are possible targets if it moves deeper in Ukraine. While additional sanctions would inevitably also affect the economies of the U.S. and Europe, Obama said, the goal is to limit the collateral damage.

European governments are debating the costs of more penalties. Banking curbs would hurt Britain, an arms embargo would bar France from selling Mistral-class helicopter carriers to the Kremlin, and cutbacks in purchases of Russian gas would harm a swath of EU countries, including Germany.

 

In Kiev, the IMF unveiled a preliminary accord with Ukraine yesterday for a two-year loan of $14 billion to $18 billion designed to help the country avert default. Ukraine’s government is grappling with dwindling reserves, a weakening currency, and an economy threatening to slide into a third recession in six years.

The IMF board still must sign off on the financial rescue package, Ukraine's third since 2008, needed to unlock $27 billion in international aid. In Kiev, lawmakers approved budget changes and a tax bill required for the accord yesterday.

As part of the deal, Ukraine agreed to cut its budget deficit to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2016 and to raise retail energy tariffs toward their full cost, according to the Washington-based lender. The central bank will shift to a flexible exchange rate and inflation targeting.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was voted into office last month, said yesterday that GDP will shrink 3 percent in 2014 and inflation may reach 14 percent.

"The country is on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy," he said. "This package of laws is very unpopular, very difficult, very tough: reforms that should have been done in the past 20 years."

 

In Washington, Congress is poised to give final passage as soon as Friday to legislation that includes about $1 billion in loan guarantees and authorizes $150 million in direct assistance to Ukraine. The yield on Ukraine's dollar note due in 2023 was stable at 8.779 by 10:32 a.m. in Kiev. The hryvnia has lost 26 percent this year, making it the worst performing of the 175 global currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

Of the 169 countries present for the UN vote, 100 were in favor of the resolution calling on all states and to not recognize "any alteration of the status" of Crimea. Russia was joined by Belarus, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Armenia and Nicaragua in voting against, while 58 countries abstained.

The resolution didn't mention Russia or directly blame or accuse it of violating Ukraine's territorial integrity.

 

Russia's defiance of criticism from the U.S. and EU states comes amid a propaganda effort led by state-run channels such as the all-news Rossiya24, as well as NTV television, owned by Gazprom-Media, an arm of the state-controlled gas monopoly OAO Gazprom. They've also been joined by Ren-TV and Channel 5, which are owned by billionaire Yury Kovalchuk, a close adviser to Putin who has been targeted by U.S. sanctions.

"What’s happening now with state media and especially TV is unprecedented, even for the Soviet era," said Tatiana Vorozheykina, lead researcher at the Levada Center in Moscow, Russia’s only independent polling company. "These are propaganda instruments and no one hides it."

In Kiev, the government delivered an ultimatum for anyone in possession of unregistered weapons, while clashes between pro-Russian protesters and Ukrainian nationalist groups have prompted a crackdown on the self-defense units that took part in the protests in Kiev’s Independence Square during the protests that toppled Yanukovych.

Pravyi Sektor, an umbrella group that unites the majority of the nationalist protesters, has no plans to comply, saying it doesn’t trust a police force that includes many who fought against demonstrators this year. Oleksandr Muzychko, a Pravyi Sektor leader in western Ukraine, was killed after shooting and wounding a police officer, the Interior Ministry said March 25. Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov called for an investigation.

"In order to avoid provocations, the parliament should ensure a clear and transparent investigation," Turchynov told told lawmakers.

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