Proposed Crimea referendum ‘worrying and serious’ development – UN

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe (file photo)

7 March 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today emphasized the need for peace and stability in Ukraine’s Crimea region, where the announcement of a referendum on joining Russia constitutes a “worrying and serious” development.

Lawmakers in the autonomous Ukrainian region of Crimea voted yesterday to join Russia and to hold a referendum on 16 March to validate the decision. The move comes amid rising tensions in the region, where additional Russian troops and armoured vehicles have recently been deployed, and against the backdrop of the protests and violence that have plagued Ukraine since last November.

“The recent announcement by the authorities in Crimea that they intend to hold a referendum is a worrying and serious development,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York. “In this regard, the Secretary-General urges the authorities in Ukraine, including in Crimea, to treat this matter with calm.”

Mr. Nesirky said it should be noted that referendums usually have clear rules on national constitutional law that should be looked into “carefully and dispassionately.”

“All concerned should think about the implications of any hasty actions or decisions taken in the heat of the moment. The Secretary-General cannot emphasize enough the need for peace and stability in the region,” he added.

Mr. Nesirky also said that the Secretary-General’s Senior Advisor, Robert Serry, is continuing his consultations with Ukrainian and diplomatic interlocutors in Kiev today, before leaving the country tomorrow. He will then return to Jerusalem next week, where he is based as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

“At this stage, it is not yet known when he will return to Ukraine,” the spokesperson stated. “But he will continue to assist the Secretary-General, as required, in his good offices to promote urgently needed de-escalation and a peaceful political resolution of the country’s current crisis.”

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic has arrived in Ukraine to conduct a preliminary assessment of the human rights situation following recent developments.

He will “seek to identify existing and potential human rights challenges and to advocate for the protection of human rights, including those of minorities, as well as for accountability for recent human rights violations,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told a news conference in Geneva.

During his eight-day visit, Mr. Šimonovic plans to meet authorities in the capital, Kiev, as well as in Lviv, Kharkiv and Simferopol, as well as the Ombudsman, and civil society organisations at central and regional levels.

He will also liaise with regional organizations active in Ukraine, especially the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the Council of Europe.

Mr. Šimonovic, who is based in New York, will be joined by a team of five other OHCHR staff from Geneva over the weekend in addition to the two staff already on the ground. He is expected to present a report with recommendations for follow-up actions to the High Commissioner upon his return.


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