Ukraine: UN condemns Crimea vote as IMF and US back loans

Russian marines march at a military base in Sevastopol, Crimea, on 24 March 2014 Russian forces seized Crimea's remaining military bases after Ukrainian servicemen withdrew this week

The UN General Assembly has approved a resolution describing the Moscow-backed referendum that led to Russia's annexation of Crimea as illegal.

It comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a loan deal with Ukraine worth $14-18bn.

The US Congress also passed legislation on Thursday backing a $1bn loan guarantee for Ukraine.

Tensions are high between Russia and the West after pro-Russian troops annexed Ukraine's southern peninsula.

The West has widely condemned the move, with US President Barack Obama warning on Wednesday of "deeper" EU and US sanctions against Russia if it carried out further incursions in Ukraine.

Non-binding

One hundred countries voted in favour of approving a UN General Assembly resolution declaring the Crimean referendum on 16 March illegal and affirming Ukraine's territorial integrity.

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Mr Obama made it clear that he believes the West is on the right side of history - but it is not going to war over Ukraine”

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Eleven nations voted against, with 58 abstentions.

"This support has come from all corners of the world which shows that this (is) not only a regional matter but a global one,'' Ukraine's Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia told reporters after the vote.

But Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said "the fact that almost half" of the UN General Assembly members had not supported the resolution was "a very encouraging trend and I think this trend will become stronger and stronger".

Given that the resolution was non-binding, the vote was largely symbolic, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in New York.

But Ukraine hopes the resolution will act as a deterrent and dissuade Moscow from making further incursions into its territory, he adds.

Diplomats leave their seats to photograph an electronic monitors showing a vote count, as the UN General Assembly voted and approved a draft resolution on the territorial integrity of the Ukraine,on 27 March 2014 at UN Headquarters. Diplomats left their seats to photograph electronic monitors displaying the General Assembly vote count

President Obama said the IMF announcement, which would unlock a further $10bn in loans for Ukraine, was a "major step forward" to help stabilise the country's economy and meet the long-term needs of its people.

Speaking after talks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome on Thursday, Mr Obama said it was a "concrete signal" that the world stood united with Ukraine at a difficult time.

A bill was also passed in the US Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday providing $1bn in loan guarantees aimed at stabilising Ukraine's economy. The measure still needs to be signed into law by President Obama.

Ukraine's interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had earlier told parliament the country was on the ""on the edge of economic and financial bankruptcy".

'Door of diplomacy'

On Thursday evening, some 2,000 protesters belonging to the far-right nationalist group, Right Sector, gathered outside the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

They blame Mr Avakov for the death of one of the group's leaders, Oleksandr Muzychko, in an arrest operation earlier this week.

A BBC correspondent at the scene described the crowd's mood as aggressive, with MPs urging them to move away from the premises through loudspeakers.

Activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the parliament building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev on 27 March 27, 2014. Far-right protesters rallied outside Kiev's parliament building on Thursday evening
Security guards block the doors of the parliament building as activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather outside the building to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov in Kiev on 27 March 2014. Security guards block the doors of the parliament building in Kiev as Right Sector activists gather outside
Men climb onto the parliament building as activists of the Right Sector movement and their supporters gather to demand the immediate resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov, in Kiev March 27, 2014. Angered by the death of a Right Sector leader, protesters are demanding the interior minister's resignation

The protesters smashed several windows and vowed to return on Friday morning before retreating, the AFP news agency reports.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko earlier announced she planned to run for president of Ukraine in the elections expected to take place on 25 May.

Ms Tymoshenko, who has already served twice as prime minister and ran for president in 2010, said she would stand as "a candidate for Ukrainian unity".

She was released after serving three years in jail on corruption charges, following the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

More than 100 people were killed during protests which overthrew pro-Kremlin President Yanukovych in February.

Yulia Tymoshenko: "I dream about victory... but the victory for Ukraine"

They followed months of street protests sparked by Mr Yanukovych's decision to reject a planned EU trade deal in favour of closer ties with Moscow.

Since then, Russia has annexed the Crimean peninsula, which last week voted to become part of the Russian federation.

Mr Obama said on Thursday that the US hoped Russia would "walk through the door of diplomacy" and resolve the issue in a peaceful way.

Cows graze near a tank and servicemen, believed to be Russian, outside a military base in Perevalnoye, near the Crimean city of Simferopol, on 27 March 2014. Ukraine hopes the UN General Assembly resolution will deter Russia from any future incursion

In other Ukraine developments:

  • Six Ukrainian military officers detained by Russian troops in Crimea have been released, but five remain in custody; those released include Col Yuli Mamchur, the commander of Belbek base which fell on Saturday
  • Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk says the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas will increase by 79% from 1 April
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin announces plans for a new domestic payment system to circumvent financial sanctions imposed by Western nations over the Crimea issue.

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