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.
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:
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.