By Javier Otazu
United Nations, Sep 27 (EFE).- A senior United Nations official said during an extraordinary Security Council session Tuesday that annexation referendums held by Russia in four areas of eastern and southern Ukraine are invalid under international law.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for his part, called at that same meeting for further isolating Russia by removing the country from all international organizations, including the Security Council.
The referendums “cannot be called a genuine expression of the popular will,” and cannot be regarded as valid under international law, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, American diplomat Rosemary DiCarlo, told the Security Council.
She added that over five days beginning last Friday soldiers accompanied the de facto authorities as they carried ballot boxes from door to door.
According to figures released on Tuesday by Russian-installed officials in those regions, an overwhelming majority (nearly 98 percent) of voters in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which make up a combined total of around 15 percent of Ukraine, voted in favor of becoming part of Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin now is expected to formalize the annexation of those territories in the coming days.
Zelenskyy, who was invited to address the Council via video conference, said that if Russia takes that step it will mean there will be nothing to negotiate with Putin in the future.
The Ukrainian president also called on the international community to further ratchet up sanctions on Russia by stripping that country of its status as a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council and excluding it from all international organizations.
In that regard, the United States’ ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said her country plans to introduce a resolution calling on Security Council member states to condemn “Russia’s sham referenda.”
“If Russia chooses to shield itself from accountability here in the Council, we will then look to the UN General Assembly to send an unmistakable message to Moscow,” she said.
But Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, denied accusations of voter intimidation and said the referendums were conducted transparently and in keeping with international norms.
He added that around 100 international observers from more than 40 countries were present for the referendums, hailed the enthusiasm of the participants and questioned why Western media outlets have not interviewed any of the inhabitants of those regions about the vote.
Putin reiterated Tuesday that the referendums were held in those regions – swathes of which are occupied by Russian forces – to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers from being persecuted by Ukraine’s government, an allegation Kyiv denies.
Although the referendums mark a new twist in the seven-month-old Ukrainian conflict, their impact in terms of the political alignment within the UN has been negligible.
Brazil, Mexico and African and Arab countries criticized the referendums, but they did so without any tone of hostility and continued to call on the two warring sides to resolve the conflict through negotiations.
China and India, meanwhile, made no reference to the referendums at all even though they were the reason for the meeting. EFE