We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk


Ukraine crisis: Russia threatened countries ahead of UN vote on Crimea’s referendum, diplomats claim


Several countries were threatened with retaliation by Russia if they voted against Moscow in a United Nations General Assembly resolution, diplomats have revealed.

Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and a number of African countries were among the states threatened by Russia, they said.

The UN resolution aimed to declare Crimea’s referendum on breaking away from Ukraine as invalid and was passed by 100 votes to 11, with 58 abstentions.

The disclosures about Russian threats were made by the news agency Reuters and were based on interviews with UN diplomats, most of whom were said to have spoken on condition of anonymity for fear of angering Moscow.

Russian threats were not specific, the diplomats said, but it was made clear that retaliatory measures could include steps such as expelling migrant workers from Russia, halting natural gas supplies or imposing trade bans.

A spokesman for Russia's mission to the UN denied that any threats of retaliation had been made, and said: "We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation."

The allegations of threats of retaliation by Russia came after Moscow accused Western countries of using "shameless pressure, up to the point of political blackmail and economic threats," in an attempt to coerce the United Nations' 193 member states to join it in supporting the UN resolution.

Western diplomats called the resolution vote a diplomatic success for Ukraine. Although non-binding - unlike Security Council resolutions - Russia and the Western powers went to great efforts to persuade delegations to vote with them. Earlier this month, Russia vetoed a resolution in the Security Council that was similar to the General Assembly text.

The US and European delegations said the result of Thursday's vote highlighted Russia's isolation on the issue of Crimea.