A woman votes during a referendum in a mobile polling station in Mariupol, Donetsk People's Republic, controlled by Russia-backed separatists. AP/PA Images
russian invasion

China calls on Russia, Ukraine not to let war 'spill over' as 'sham’ breakaway polls continue

Before the war, Vladimir Putin visited Beijing and the two nations declared a tight alliance.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 24th 2022, 7:06 PM

CHINA’S FOREIGN MINISTER has urged Russia and Ukraine not to let effects of their war “spill over” and called for a diplomatic resolution.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stopped short of robustly supporting the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, nominally an ally of Beijing.

“We call on all parties concerned to keep the crisis from spilling over and to protect the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries,” Wang said.

He called for “fair and pragmatic” peace talks to resolve all global issues.

“China supports all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis. The pressing priority is to facilitate talks for peace,” Wang said.

“The fundamental solution is to address the legitimate security concerns of all parties and build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture.”

During his visit to the United Nations, Wang met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in their first talks since Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov bitterly criticised Western nations at the assembly for their “grotesque” fear of Russia, saying such states were seeking to “destroy” his country.

“The official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented, now the scope is grotesque,” Lavrov said in a fiery speech. “They are not shying away from declaring the intent to inflict not only military defeat on our country but also to destroy and fracture Russia.”

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged Chinese “concerns” about Ukraine during a meeting with his counterpart Xi Jinping.

Before the war, Putin had visited Beijing and the two nations declared a tight alliance.

But US officials have been heartened by what they see as China’s lack of concrete backing for the war and say that Beijing has declined requests to send military equipment, forcing Russia to rely on North Korea and Iran as its own supplies dwindle.

Kremlin-held regions of eastern and southern Ukraine entered the second day of voting to become part of Russia today, in referendums dismissed as a “sham” by US President Joe Biden.

The voting on whether Russia should annex four regions of Ukraine started yesterday, dramatically raising the stakes seven months after Moscow’s troops invaded.

The vote was announced earlier this week after a Ukrainian counteroffensive seized most of the northeastern Kharkiv region – bringing hundreds of settlements back under Kyiv’s control after months of Russian occupation.

The four regions’ integration into Russia would represent a major escalation of the conflict as Moscow would consider any military move there as an attack on its own territory.

The referendums are reminiscent of the one held after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the polls.

“The world will react absolutely justly to the sham referenda,” he said, describing them as “crimes against international law and the law of Ukraine”.

G7 nations said the polls will “never” be recognised and have “no legal effect or legitimacy”.

Russian men flee mobilisation

Russian authorities acknowledged a “significant” influx of cars trying to cross from Russia into Georgia on Saturday, days after Moscow announced partial mobilisation.

“There is a significant congestion of private vehicles … around 2,300″ waiting to pass one checkpoint along the border, said the local interior ministry in a Russian region that borders Georgia.

The ministry urged people “to refrain from travelling” in the direction of Georgia.

It added that movement at the checkpoint was “difficult” and that additional traffic officers had been deployed.

The introduction of partial mobilisation in Russia on Wednesday sparked a new exodus out of the country.

The search “to leave Russia” was carried out 100 times more than normal on the morning of the announcement, Google Trends data showed.

Saturday’s comments are the first official acknowledgement by Russian authorities of an influx of travellers out of the country.

Most direct flights to countries allowing Russian entry without visa have sold out, and prices have skyrocketed.

According to a law passed today, servicemen who desert, surrender “without authorisation”, refuse to fight or disobey orders can face up to 10 years imprisonment.

Russians fearing border closure and mobilisation also rushed to cross land borders.

Borders with Kazakhstan and Mongolia also saw an influx of cars, with hours-long lines at crossings, witnesses said.

The Kremlin on Thursday had dismissed reports that Russians eligible for mobilisation were rushing for exit as “fake”.

War crimes
UN and Ukrainian officials have revealed what they said was more evidence of Russian “war crimes” – including executions and torture.

“Russia’s referenda are a sham – a false pretext to try to annex parts of Ukraine by force in flagrant violation of international law,” Biden said.

“We will work with our allies and partners to impose additional swift and severe economic costs on Russia.”

It even prompted a reaction from Beijing, Moscow’s closest ally since the war began in February.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi – in comments made to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba at the UN General Assembly yesterday – said the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected”.

© AFP 2022

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