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Voice of America: UN: Civil, Political Rights Repressed in Russian-occupied Areas of Ukraine

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U.N. human rights monitors say freedom of expression, assembly and other civil and political rights are constrained in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, including Crimea. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has submitted its latest report on the situation in Ukraine to the U.N. Human Rights Council. 

Since its last update in July, U.N. monitors report a dramatic escalation in the war in Ukraine. They document continued widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, and report civilian casualties caused by Russian attacks in populated areas using explosive weapons. Russia has denied targeting civilians. 

U.N. monitors say reports of torture and ill-treatment, and of enforced disappearance of both civilians and prisoners of war continue. They add that some human rights violations could amount to war crimes. 

The report finds civilians continue to bear the brunt of hostilities. It documents 6,114 civilians killed, and more than 9,000 injured. However, it notes the real figures are likely to be considerably higher. 

Christian Salazar Volkmann, director of Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division, says U.N. monitors report the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly have been restricted in territory occupied by the Russian Federation or controlled by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups. 

“Ukrainian television channels and radio stations have been disconnected and replaced with channels from the Russian Federation or self-proclaimed republics,” he said. “In Crimea, the Russian Federation has applied legislation penalizing a wide spectrum of expression deemed critical and teachers have been pressured to endorse the armed attack.” 

Volkmann says he is concerned that this highly restrictive environment is deterring people from reporting the human rights violations they have witnessed. 

“While the purported annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, further to the so-called referenda, the Russian Federation has taken steps which deepen, rather than resolve, the conflict and exacerbate the human rights violations associated with it, moving further away from peace towards escalation,” Volkmann said. 

He notes any annexation of a state’s territory by another state is a violation of the principles of the U.N. Charter and international law. 

Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Yevheniia Filipenko says the Kremlin’s plan to conquer Ukraine continues to fail, prompting Russia to threaten the use of nuclear weapons. That, she says, is leaving people around the world in a state of fear and insecurity. 

Despite all the threats, she says Ukraine will not stop fighting until all territories are liberated and Russia is held accountable for its crimes. 

First Secretary of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. in Geneva Guzal Khusanova calls the report one-sided and unbalanced. She accuses the Office of the High Commissioner of lacking the courage to report on war crimes allegedly committed by the Ukrainians.

Voice of America

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