Fri Feb 3, 2017 10:38AM
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin (photo by AFP)
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin (photo by AFP)

Russia has dismissed accusations by the newly-appointed US envoy to the United Nations about the Crimean Peninsula, saying people in the territory made a conscious decision to join Russia in a referendum more than two years ago.

During a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley had harshly criticized Moscow for what she described as “military intervention in Ukraine.”

“Eastern Ukraine of course is not the only part of the country suffering because of Russia’s aggressive actions,” she claimed. “The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea.”

Reacting after the meeting, Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said pointed to how the US constitution gives precedence to the will of the people.  

“In this regard, one cannot forget the remarkable historical words that are found in the constitution of the United States: ‘We the people,’” Churkin said. “The people of Crimea quite clearly expressed their will in a referendum.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (photo by AFP)

Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum, in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the move.

Later, an armed conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine when Kiev launched military operations to quell similar pro-Russia sentiments there. Kiev accuses Moscow of involvement in the conflict, a charge Russia has denied.

The violence in eastern Ukraine, a region collectively known as the Donbass, has recently surged.

Churkin further said, “Any serious intensification of hostilities in Donbass miraculously coincides with foreign visits of the Ukrainian leadership. Apparently, this is how Kiev expects to keep the crisis that it had provoked on the international agenda.”

Washington, along with some of its Western allies, has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, which has killed nearly 10,000 people since it began in 2014.