U.S.: If accepted, Putin's "sham" referendums in Ukraine "will open a Pandora's box"
Driving the news: As expected, Russian state media reported Tuesday that large majorities in the areas either fully or partially controlled by Moscow voted in favor of joining Russia.
- Ukraine accused Russia of intimidating residents, some by gunpoint, into voting and spreading pro-Russia propaganda during the five days the Moscow-staged referendums took place in Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk.
The big picture: The referendums are widely expected to be used as a pretext for Russia to annex the four occupied areas. The British Defense Ministry has warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could announce the formal annexations as early as Friday, when he is expected to address Russia's parliament.
- If annexed, Putin could attempt to portray any attack on the regions as an attack on Russia itself.
What they're saying: "Russia's sham referenda, if accepted, will open a Pandora's box that we cannot close," Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council Tuesday. "The rush for Russia to institute and complete these attempted annexations destroy even the facade of legitimacy."
- The U.K.'s Deputy UN Ambassador James Kariuki added that "any referenda held under these conditions, at the barrel of a gun," can never be remotely close to free and fair."
- Thomas-Greenfield did not say when the U.S., along with Albania, would introduce the Security Council resolution, though Russia, which has veto power, would likely block it.
- "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," Thomas-Greenfield said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia through the referendums of trying to "erase the norms of international law."
- “This is an attempt to steal the territory of another state,” he told the Security Council via video link from Kyiv.
- Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebensya, complained Zelensky was allowed to speak via video link, which he labeled as one of the Ukrainian president's "P.R. stunts."
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