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UN moves to step up human rights scrutiny in Crimea

UN member states on Tuesday condemned rights abuses in Crimea and pressed Russia to allow UN monitors to visit the Ukrainian territory it invaded more than two years ago.

The resolution drafted by Ukraine and backed by the United States, France and Britain was adopted by a vote of 73 to 23 with 76 abstentions by the General Assembly’s human rights committee.

The resolution will go for a vote at the full assembly next month.

Russia opposed the resolution, dismissing it as politically-motivated.

Russian foreign ministry official Anatoly Viktorov complained that UN diplomats “waste time on discussing useless propaganda leaflets instead of conducting a substantive dialogue on political issues related to promoting human rights.”

Among the countries that backed Russia in opposing the resolution were China, Iran, India, Syria, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Serbia and North Korea.

Many Latin American and African countries abstained from the vote, which for the first time put Crimea under scrutiny at the assembly’s rights committee.

The resolution condemned abuses and discrimination in Crimea, which was seized by Russia in February 2014 and later annexed in a move that was not recognized by the United Nations.

Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergiy Kyslytsya said the human rights situation had worsened in Crimea with “extrajudicial killings, intimidation, arbitrary detentions, torture” and violations of freedom of expression.

Rights groups have notably raised alarm over the plight of Crimea’s Muslim Tatars, who have been subjected to repression for their opposition to Russian rule of the territory.

The resolution urges Russia to reverse its decision to shut down the Crimean Tatars’ governing body, the Mejlis, and to allow cultural and religious institutions to reopen.

The text calls on Russia to “take all necessary measures to bring an immediate end to all abuses against residents of Crimea” and to cooperate with the UN rights office seeking to report on the situation in the peninsula.

A UN monitoring mission on human rights set up in Ukraine in 2014 has not been allowed in Crimea.