The United Nations Secretary-General strongly condemned Russia’s plans to formally annex four Ukrainian territories in a ceremony Friday. He called it illegal and “unacceptable.”
“The UN charter is clear,” Antonio Guterres told reporters Thursday. “The annexation of the territory of any country by any state as a result of the threat or use of force is a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.”
He said the decision to continue to annex four Ukrainian regions – Donetsk and Luhansk in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south – would have no “legal value and deserve condemnation.”
On Thursday, the Kremlin announced it would hold a ceremony on Friday to formally incorporate the four Ukrainian regions into Russia. The move has been denounced as illegitimate by Ukraine and its allies, who are ready to impose new sanctions on Moscow in response.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the ceremony would involve Russian President Vladimir Putin and the four Russian-appointed regional leaders, where Russia held a referendum that ended earlier this week.
“I would like to emphasize that the so-called “referendum” in the occupied territories was carried out during an active armed conflict, in territory occupied by Russia and falls outside the legal and constitutional framework of Ukraine,” the UN chief said. “It cannot be called a genuine expression of the will of the people.”
He warned that if Russia continued annexation as planned, it would trigger a “dangerous escalation” and further jeopardize prospects for peace.
“It is time to step back from this brink,” Guterres said.
Guterres’ spokesman said the UN secretary general had conveyed the message to Russia when he spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the UN on Wednesday (28/9).
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted on Thursday that he assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Germany would never recognize “the so-called results [referendum] that.”
“Putin’s fake referendum on illegally occupied territory in Ukraine is meaningless,” Scholz said.
In Washington, Senator Richard Blumenthal alluded to a US Congressional legislation proposal to respond to Russia’s latest move.
“Senator (Lindsay) Graham and I presented today a bill that would immediately require cuts in economic and military aid to any country that recognizes Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of four Ukrainian territories,” he said Thursday.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday that the US suspects Russia “will use the bogus referendum as a false pretext to try to annex Ukrainian territory in flagrant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.”
Jean-Pierre said that regardless of Russia’s claims, the territory remains Ukrainian territory.
“In response, we will work closely with our allies and partners to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia and the individuals and entities inside and outside Russia that support these actions,” he said.
At the UN Security Council, the US worked with Albania to draft a resolution condemning the “false referendum” and calling on all countries not to recognize any change in status against Ukraine and force Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Russia will certainly use its veto power to block the resolution, but doing so would then allow member states to move to the General Assembly to call for condemnation there. The same strategy following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea has sparked criticism from 100 countries.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that the European Union plans to respond with a “massive new import ban on Russian products” and widen export bans “to remove critical technology from the Russian military complex.”
“This will prevent Russian products from circulating on the European market and cost Russia an additional 7 billion euros in revenue,” von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels. The EU’s 27 member states must agree to the sanctions in order for them to take effect. Previously, the bloc had had difficulty agreeing on previous sanctions.
Ukraine’s Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions, when combined, represent about 15% of the country’s total area. [rd/jm]