By Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States will introduce a resolution at the United Nations Security Council condemning referendums held by Russia in occupied regions of Ukraine, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. said on Tuesday.
The resolution, to be introduced jointly with Albania, will call on member states not to recognize any altered status of Ukraine and also obligate Russia to withdraw its troops, envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at a council meeting.
“Russia’s sham referenda, if accepted, will open a pandora’s box that we cannot close,” she said.
The United States is working quickly to introduce resolution, a U.S. official said, providing no details on when it would official.
Russia has the ability to veto a resolution, but Thomas-Greenfield said: “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.”
The council, which has met over 20 times on Ukraine this year, has been unable to take meaningful action because Russia is a permanent veto-wielding member along with the United States, France, Britain and China.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, did not directly address the resolution Thomas-Greenfield said the United States would introduce but told the meeting that the referendums were conducted transparently and upholding electoral norms.
“This process is going to continue if Kyiv does not recognize its mistakes and its strategic errors and doesn’t start to be guided by the interests of its own people and not blindly carry out the will of those people who are playing them,” he said.
Ukraine has said voting was carried out at gunpoint in many cases.
“Any referenda held under these conditions, at the barrel of a gun, can never be remotely close to free or fair,” Britain’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador James Kariuki said.
Russian-installed officials in four occupied regions of Ukraine reported huge majorities on Tuesday in favor of becoming part of Russia after five days of voting.
The referendums on becoming part of Russia were organized hastily after Ukraine recaptured large swathes of the northeast. Russia’s parliament could move to formalize the annexations within days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Security Council that the results were pre-determined as he called for Russia to be excluded from all international organizations and for new sanctions against Moscow.
“Russia’s recognition of these sham referendums as normal, the implementation of the so-called Crimean scenario and another attempt to annex Ukrainian territory will mean that there is nothing to talk about with the president of Russia,” Zelenskiy said in virtual remarks. Russian annexed the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.
Russia complained at the start of the meeting that Zelenskiy should not be allowed to speak via video link, citing U.N. rules.
China’s Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun told the meeting that isolation and sanctions would only “lead to a dead end.”
China has given Russia diplomatic support since Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion and Zhang repeated Beijing’s call for negotiations that “include the respective legitimate concerns” to end the conflict.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon LewisEditing by Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool)