World and Nation

Premier of Ukraine makes plea at the United Nations

UNITED NATIONS — Ukraine’s interim prime minister, seeking to rally support for a Security Council resolution criticizing the Russian takeover of Crimea, took pains on Thursday to say that his country wanted a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“The Ukrainian government is absolutely open. We want to have talks. We don’t want any type of military aggression,” the prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, told the Security Council. He spoke in flawless English, and then, for dramatic effect, looked up and addressed Moscow’s envoy in Russian.

“We are looking for an answer to the question, whether the Russians want war,” he asked. “And I’m sure as a prime minister of Ukraine, which for decades had warm and friendly relations with Russia, I’m convinced that Russians do not want war.”

The Russian ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, sat straight-backed, hands on the table, and listened. When it was his turn, he replied crisply: “Russia does not want war, nor do Russians. I suspect Ukrainians don’t want it either.”

He went on to excoriate Yatsenyuk’s administration in Kiev as “a government of victors,” stuffed with extremists, who came to power on the shoulders of violent protesters and Westerners who had interfered. He called Sunday’s scheduled referendum in Crimea an exercise in “self-determination.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the U.S. ambassador, Samantha Power, said: “I missed the day in law school where self-determination was defined as Russia-determination.”

It was an afternoon of intense diplomatic theater, as the Security Council met for the sixth time in two weeks over the developments in Ukraine and diplomats announced plans to propose a resolution that was more for show than function.

It is almost certain to be vetoed by Russia, which, like the other five permanent members of the council, has the right to torpedo any measure it does not like.

The resolution is not likely to explicitly condemn Russia’s military advance in the Crimean peninsula. Power said it was expected to express support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and dismiss the referendum on Sunday as illegitimate.

The measure is likely to be carefully worded to isolate Russia, potentially corralling even its traditional ally, China, to abstain from a vote.

China has not yet shown its hand. Yet even its brief public comments have made it amply clear that it is in a tough bind. On Thursday, the Chinese ambassador, Liu Jieyi, tried to defend some of Moscow’s apprehensions, singling out its concern about “extremism” and violence on the streets of Kiev.

But Liu also signaled Beijing’s worries: China has its own separatists in Tibet, for instance, and would not wish to invite foreign meddling in its affairs. He said it was Chinese policy “not to interfere” and “respect other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.”