UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia is facing growing isolation and increasing pressure to stop a referendum in Ukraine's strategic Crimea Peninsula though it has shown no sign of softening its position and is still blocking Security Council action, Britain's U.N. ambassador said Monday.
Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after a closed council meeting that Russia has virtually no support in the council with almost all council members — including its usual ally China — underlining the importance of upholding the U.N. Charter and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Russian forces have effectively taken control over Crimea in what has turned into Europe's greatest geopolitical crisis since the end of the Cold War. On Sunday, the region is to hold a referendum on whether to split off and become part of Russia. The West says it will not recognize the result because it is illegal and violates Ukraine's constitution.
The Security Council meeting was the fifth in 10 days on Ukraine.
"There's nothing new," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said as he departed. As a permanent veto-wielding council member, Russia can block any statement or resolution.
Russia has been at odds with much of the world since three months of protests sent Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing, eventually to southern Russia. Moscow has refused to recognize the interim government chosen by Ukraine's parliament to replace him — or to negotiate with it.
France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said a peaceful settlement of the Ukraine crisis is possible.
"But the problem is that the situation is still worsening by the day," he said. "The Russian army is reinforcing its presence in Crimea. The Russian army is now besieging and storming installations of the Ukrainian army ... And all the signals are sent from Moscow that Russia is ready to recognize the announced results of the referendum. This is very dangerous."