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article imageRussia’s ‘Virtual reality’ stance on Ukraine slammed at UN

By Robert Myles     Apr 17, 2014 in Politics
New York - On the eve of Thursday’s four-way talks which took place in Geneva, today, Russia again came in for flak at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council held yesterday, both from UN officials and a number of Western Ambassadors.
Four-way talks involving the US, Russia, the European Union and Ukraine were held in the Swiss city today against a background of escalating violence in Ukraine. This morning, Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, said three pro-Russian separatists were killed in a clash with Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea town of Mariupol, early Thursday. Avakov, on his Facebook page, said the deaths occurred as a result of an attack on a military unit of the Ukrainian National Guard by a 300 strong crowd of pro-Russia supporters armed with incendiary grenades and Molotov cocktails. The assailants had opened fire and when the Ukrainian National Guard returned fire, three of the attackers were killed.
Wednesday, presenting a report (DOC format) from the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (ONHCR), UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović said the ongoing unrest in eastern Ukraine, if not addressed as a matter of priority, risked seriously destabilizing the rest of the country. Mr Šimonović also urged that steps be taken to counter misinformation and bring to an end all incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence.
The ONHCR report was based on the findings of a team of UN human rights monitors on the ground in Ukraine since 15 March and analysed events up to April 2.
The focus of the report was therefore on protests in Maidan Square, Kiev which led to the downfall of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. That in turn, prompted a reaction in Crimea culminating in that region holding a referendum with the backing of Russia, and subsequently seceding from Ukraine to join the Russian Federation.
Recent protests and demonstrations by pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv and today’s incident at Mariupol were outwith the scope of the ONHCR report which focussed on what it termed was the excessive use of force by the Berkut special police and other security forces.
The actions of the Berkut and others led, the report said, to the radicalisation of the Kiev-based Maidan protest movement.
“Violations related to the Maidan protests should be investigated and addressed in order to ensure accountability of perpetrators,” the report stated.
ONHCR reporters said information gathered to date (Apr. 2) indicated that 121 people were killed in violence between December 2013 and February 2014. Most of the acts of severe beatings, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment were attributed to the Berkut.
Referring to events in Crimea, the report criticized the presence of paramilitary and so-called self-defence groups as well as soldiers without insignia — a tactic that has become all too familiar in recent days as further protests, uncannily similar to those in Crimea, have erupted in towns and cities in eastern Ukraine.
The presence of such groups in Crimea, the report said, was not conducive to an environment in which the will of voters could be exercised freely. The ONHCR had also received many reports of vote rigging.
“A number of measures taken in Crimea are deeply concerning from a human rights perspective,” the report continued. These included the introduction of Russian citizenship, making it difficult for those who opt to maintain their Ukrainian citizenship to stay in Crimea.
“The current situation also raises concerns with regard to land and property ownership, wages and pensions, health service, labour rights, education and access to justice,” added the report.
Jews required to 'register or be deported'
The report was presented against a background of conflicting reports from Crimea. Wednesday, the International Business Times carried a report that pro-Russian supporters in the eastern industrial city of Donetsk had told Jews in Crimea they would need to “register or be deported” for supporting Kiev rule.
That conflicted with earlier reports carried by the Israel-based Arutz Sheva that Crimea’s estimated 4,000 Jews were “doing fine,” although these earlier reports were filed shortly after the Crimean parliament declared independence from Ukraine, precedent to Crimea being absorbed in the Russian Federation.
Responding to publication of the ONHCR’s report on Ukraine at yesterday’s Security Council meeting, a number of Western nations said the report undermined Russian assertions over what led up to its annexation of Crimea.
The same representatives warned of that situation now being replicated in eastern Ukraine and were scathing in their criticism of Russia.
Fantasy Narrative
The UK’s Ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, called Russia’s position on the developing Ukrainian crisis, “A new fantasy narrative.”
"Virtual reality," was how French Ambassador Gerard Araud described Russia’s stance.
Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN was equally forthright, calling out Russian actions as, "A well-orchestrated professional campaign of incitement."
Russia’s Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, termed the UN’s human rights report, "biased." As he emerged from the meeting, reports AP, Churkin declared in Russian, "Eleventh! Eleventh!" reflecting the number of times the UN Security Council had met to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.
Fresh elections in Ukraine, despite this week’s unrest in the east of the country, remain scheduled to take place May 25. Ukraine appears resolute to press ahead with that timetable. At yesterday’s Security Council meeting, Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador, Yuriy Sergeyev, said Ukraine was determined to hold the fresh elections "under all circumstances." Sergeyev added that what Ukraine needed was to break with the corruption and other bad ways of the past and that “Russia leaves us in peace."
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