Russia Threatened Several Countries Ahead of UN Vote on Crimea

The Atlantic
Kremlin's Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov, left, speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a Council of Physical Fitness and Sports in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, March 24, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)

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A number of Eastern European and African countries were reportedly threatened by Russia ahead of the United Nations vote earlier this week on Crimea. The vote, which was on a non-binding resolution to invalidate Crimea's referendum on secession from Ukraine, passed by a wide margin anyway.

class="story-body-text story-content">According to interviews with U.N. diplomats, most of whom preferred to speak on condition of anonymity for fear of angering Moscow, the targets of Russian threats included Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as a number of African countries.

Of course, here is the money quote and perhaps the purest embodiment of Russia's devil-may-care approach to international relations: 

class="story-body-text story-content">A spokesman for Russia's Mission to the U.N. denied that Moscow threatened any country with retaliation if it supported the resolution, saying: "We never threaten anyone. We just explain the situation."

A few of those countries ending up abstaining; there were 58 abstentions, along with 11 countries who voted "no."

Armenia Belarus Bolivia Cuba North Korea Nicaragua Russia Sudan Syria Venezuela Zimbabwe

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier today that Russia has "no intention of or interest in" encroaching on Ukraine's borders.

Was there a "but?" Of course, there was:

But he added that Russia was ready to protect the rights of Russian speakers, referring to what Moscow sees as threats to the lives of compatriots in eastern Ukraine since Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovich was deposed as president in February.

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