Russia seeks secret ballot ahead of UN General Assembly vote

Russia seeks secret ballot ahead of UN General Assembly vote

Russia is lobbying for a secret ballot instead of a public vote when the 193-member UN General Assembly considers whether to condemn Moscow's move to annex four partially occupied regions in Ukraine after staging what it called referendums.

Ukraine and allies denounced the votes in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as illegal and coercive. A Western-drafted UN General Assembly resolution would condemn Russia's illegal so-called referenda and the attempted illegal annexation of the areas where voting took place.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia wrote a letter to UN states, seen by Reuters. This is a politicised and provocative development aimed at deepening the divide in the General Assembly and bringing its membership further apart.

He said a secret ballot was necessary because Western lobbying made it very difficult to vote on whether to hold a secret ballot. However, he said that the General Assembly would likely have to vote publicly on whether to hold a secret ballot.

Russia vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member Security Council last week.

If the international community reacts, claims can be made that no-one pays attention, and this is now a carte blanche for other countries to do or give recognition to what Russia has done, European Union UN Ambassador Olof Skoog said on Wednesday.

He said the EU was consulting with UN member states ahead of a possible vote on Wednesday.

Russia does not control all of the four provinces it claims to have annexed, and Ukrainian forces have recaptured thousands of square miles of territory since the beginning of September.

The moves at the UN mirror what happened in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea. At the Security Council, Russia vetoed a draft resolution that opposed a referendum on the status of Crimea and urged countries not to recognise it.

The General Assembly passed a resolution declaring the referendum invalid with 100 votes in favor, 11 against and 58 formal abstaining, while two dozen countries didn't take part.

Russia is trying to chip away at its international isolation after more than three-quarters of the General Assembly voted to reprimand Moscow and force it to withdraw its troops within a week of its Feb 24 invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Moscow warned countries that a yes vote or abstaining would be viewed as unfriendly, with consequences for their relations after a vote by the General Assembly in April to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.