Russia denied moral high ground in Ukraine standoff

RUSSIA has circulated a new United Nations resolution on Ukraine in a fresh effort to make the deeply-divided Security Council address the conflict in eastern Ukraine between government and separatist fighters.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Picture: Getty

UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the new resolution ­included parts of two earlier resolutions it circulated this month which called for humanitarian aid, a ceasefire, and a national dialogue in Ukraine.

It also included several issues raised by Security Council members including a reference to Ukraine’s sovereignty, ­independence and territorial integrity, he said.

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Mr Churkin claimed that Russia, which holds the Security Council presidency in June, made the changes “to try to get as much support as possible” and would be working quickly to win council approval.

However Russia is likely to face an uphill struggle amid widespread opposition to its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March and the activities of pro-Russian militias in the east of Ukraine.

In the latest example of the divisions in the council, Mr Churkin said Russia was “disappointed” it did not support a press statement condemning Saturday’s attack on the Russian embassy in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.

Press statements require support from all 15 council members and Mr Churkin blamed Lithuania, “the only country” that objected, he said.

Lithuania’s UN ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite said all countries supported a condemnation of the embassy attack, but some wanted a parallel or separate condemnation of the downing of a Ukrainian military transport plane by pro-Russia separatists early on Saturday, which killed all 49 crew and troops aboard.

“Russia called this an unacceptable condition and cancelled the statement,” she said. “We were not the ones who blocked. It was taken off the table by Russia.”

Ms Murmokaite said her government would study the new text and one key issue would be whether the reference to territorial integrity included Crimea.

“For us it does, and it cannot be any other way,” she said. “We cannot equate the legitimate government with illegitimate illegal insurgents who are better armed than the Ukrainian army and are carrying out attacks on the territory and against the state of Ukraine.”

Before the new Russian draft was circulated, the Security Council received a briefing by UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos on the situation in Ukraine.

Ms Murmokaite said Baroness Amos told council members by video conference that the humanitarian situation was ­deteriorating and could worsen further.

Mr Churkin said towns and villages in the east were being attacked daily with artillery, tanks and planes, that “hundreds of people including children were killed in and around the cities of Luhansk and Slovyansk” and that many towns had no drinking water because energy and water supplies were targeted. He said 60,000 Ukrainian refugees were in Russia.

Baroness Amos told the council that 34,000 Ukrainians fled their homes, including 10,000 from Crimea, and that 4,600 Ukrainians applied for asylum or refugee status in Russia, UN diplomats said.

The Labour peer said if there were no political settlement there could be a humanitarian crisis, the diplomats said.