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Home News UN urges action to reduce ethnic tensions in Ukraine

UN urges action to reduce ethnic tensions in Ukraine

Published on 15/04/2014

The United Nations urged the Ukrainian authorities Tuesday to take urgent measures to reduce ethnic tensions in eastern Ukraine, but said there was no evidence of widespread attacks against ethnic Russians.

Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukraine’s government of failing to protect the country’s ethnic Russian minority, and used this to justify its annexation of Crimea.

But a UN report said that “while there were some attacks against the ethnic Russian community, these were neither systematic nor widespread”.

The report, based on two monitoring missions by senior UN human rights official Ivan Simonovic before the latest outbreak of tensions, said the situation in eastern Ukraine remained “particularly tense”.

“It will be important to immediately take initial measures to build confidence between the government and the people, and among the various communities, and reassure all people throughout Ukraine that their main concerns will be addressed,” it said.

It also raised concern about rights violations in Crimea, where separatist authorities last month voted to join Russia in a referendum that has failed to win international recognition.

Human rights groups have raised concerns about Crimean authorities’ treatment of the region’s Muslim Tatar minority, and other pro-Ukraine communities.

“A number of measures taken in Crimea are deeply concerning from a human rights perspective,” the UN report said.

The introduction of Russian citizenship for Crimeans had made it difficult for anyone wanting to keep their Ukrainian citizenship to remain, it said.

It urged Crimea’s leader to publicly condemn all attacks or harassment against human rights campaigners, journalists and opposition members, and to ensure “prompt, impartial and effective investigations and prosecutions” for such violations.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of stoking tensions within its borders in the wake of February’s ouster of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych after months of popular protest.

The UN blamed the protests on “a lack of accountability for past human rights violations committed by security forces, the lack of independence of the judiciary and a perceived denial of equal rights and protection”, citing corruption and a lack of checks and balances and free elections.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said it was “critical for the government to prioritise respect for diversity, inclusivity and equal participation of all — including minorities — in political life”.

Russia has refused to recognise Ukraine’s new leaders, and has accused Kiev of riding roughshod over the rights of the country’s Russian-speaking community.