Botswana abstained from a United Nations General Assembly vote on Crimea on Thursday. By a recorded vote of 100 in favour to 11 against, with 58 abstentions, the Assembly adopted a resolution titled
“Territorial integrity of Ukraine”, calling on States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any change in the status of Crimea or the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol, and to refrain from actions or dealings that might be interpreted as such.
Explaining the abstention, Botswana’s representative at the UN, Charles Ntwaagae said that his government did not support the dismemberment of sovereign nations, either through unilateral declarations of independence or through coercion by external forces.
He added that in abstaining, Botswana wished to allow sufficient space for the diplomatic efforts under way at the bilateral and international levels. Zimbabwe, which has a very close relationship with Russia, voted alongside Armenia, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, Nicaragua, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela which voted against the text of the resolution. The non-binding Crimea text was presented Ukraine’s Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Andriy Deshchytsya, who said that an integral part of his country had been forcibly annexed by a state that had previously committed itself to guaranteeing its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The offending state is Russia which two weeks ago, annexed Crimea after a hasty self-determination referendum that was a result of the Kremlin pulling strings from behind the scenes. Deploying more diplomatic language, the UN resolution says that the referendum was not authorised by Ukraine (which Crimea was part of) and “calls upon all states to desist and refrain actions aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including any attempts to modify Ukraine’s borders through the threat or use of force or other unlawful means.”
In a statement following the adoption of the resolution, the UN said that the resolution “broke no new legal or normative ground, but sent an essential message that the international community would not allow events in Crimea to set a precedent for further challenges to the rules-based international framework.”
From here at home, the government has not released a statement and last week, foreign affairs minister, Phandu Skelemani said Botswana was still studying the issue. The minister said that before the current crisis, he personally didn’t know that Crimea was an autonomous region.