UN declares Crimea vote illegal

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The UN General Assembly has approved a resolution describing the Moscow-backed referendum that led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal.

It comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a loan deal with Ukraine worth $14-18bn.

The US Congress also passed legislation on Thursday backing a $1bn loan guarantee for Ukraine.

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.

One hundred countries voted in favour of approving a UN General Assembly resolution declaring the Crimean referendum on 16 March illegal and affirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Eleven nations voted against, with 58 abstentions.

“This support has come from all corners of the world which shows that this (is) not only a regional matter but a global one,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia told reporters after the vote.

Given that the resolution was non-binding, the vote was largely symbolic, says the BBC’s Nick Bryant in New York.

But Ukraine hopes the resolution will act as a deterrent and dissuade Moscow from making further incursions into its territory, he adds.
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.

Speaking after talks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome on Thursday, Mr Obama said it was a “concrete signal” that the world stood united with Ukraine at a difficult time.

A bill was also passed in the US Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday providing $1bn in loan guarantees aimed at stabilising Ukraine’s economy. The measure still needs to be signed into law by President Obama.

Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had earlier told parliament the country was on the “”on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy”.
‘Door of diplomacy’

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.

Ms 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.

They followed months of street protests sparked by Mr Yanukovych’s decision to reject a planned EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with Moscow.

Since then, Russia has annexed the Crimean peninsula, which last week voted to become part of the Russian federation.

Obama said on Thursday that the US hoped Russia would “walk through the door of diplomacy” and resolve the issue in a peaceful way.

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