News / Europe

UN Slams East Ukraine Human Rights

A pro-Russian rebel takes his position at a front line rebel position near the eastern Ukrainian town of  Slovyansk May 16, 2014.
A pro-Russian rebel takes his position at a front line rebel position near the eastern Ukrainian town of Slovyansk May 16, 2014.
Lisa Schlein
A new United Nations report finds that violence by anti-government groups in eastern Ukraine is causing an "alarming deterioration" of human rights amid a political crisis between Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists.
The 36-page report cites examples of targeted killings, torture and beatings, as well as abductions, intimidation and sexual harassment, largely carried out by what it calls well-armed anti-government groups in eastern Ukraine.

“It points to evidence of lack of law and order...especially as a result of the presence, the action, the direct influence through the gangs," said Gianni Magazzeni, who leads the European branch of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. "But also indirectly, through intimidation and threats on journalists, on ordinary people, when it comes to the ability for anyone to express oneself…some self-proclaimed mayors have also banned some political parties.”  

In a statement Friday, Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the U.N. of a "complete lack of objectivity," saying the report had "glaring inconsistencies" and "double standards."

The ministry accused the report authors of following political orders to whitewash the pro-Western leadership, while ignoring "the crudest violations of human rights by the self-proclaimed Kyiv authorities''.

Under siege

The report finds the media is practically under siege in eastern Ukraine.

It says journalists, bloggers and other media face increasing threats and acts of intimidation, including abduction and unlawful detention by armed groups. The report notes at least 23 foreign and Ukrainian members of the media have been abducted and unlawfully detained, primarily in the city of Slovyansk.

U.N. human rights monitors also cite numerous examples of harassment, intimidation and blocking of broadcasts in Crimea, a southern region of Ukraine that was annexed by Russia in March. Neither Kyiv nor its Western allies recognize the annexation. The monitors say a number of radio and TV stations are no longer on the air.  

The report finds differences between Russian law and Ukranian law are creating difficulties for Crimean residents. For example, it notes people with HIV no longer are receiving treatment for their health condition because this has been curtailed under Russian law.  

Concerns about minorities

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said Friday the report findings also raise deep concerns about minorities facing harassment in Crimea.

The report notes 7,200 people from Crimea, mainly Tatars, have left the peninsula and are displaced in other parts of Ukraine. 

Magazzeni tells VOA the U.N. is very concerned about hate speech and other forms of harassment and intimidation being leveled at the Tatars. He notes May 18 is the 70th anniversary of the mass deportation of Tatars from Crimea by the government of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

“We are very conscious of what they have gone through and the potential additional discrimination," he said. "I think it is not an issue if they choose to leave, but what is the impact vis-à-vis their land, vis-à-vis their rights, vis-à-vis their work, vis-à-vis their family…for those who have stayed behind, those are critical issues that we would like to be able to monitor.”  

Violence continues

Meanwhile, there were reports of more violence in eastern Ukraine Friday, including fighting between Ukrainian government troops and separatist forces around the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, and the seizure of a Ukrainian National Guard barracks by separatists in the city of Donetsk.

In the port city of Mariupol, the scene of bloody clashes between Ukrainian security forces and anti-government demonstrators earlier this month, the situation was calm Friday as thousands of factory workers patrolled the streets jointly with police.

The joint patrols were formed after Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man, called on steelworkers at plants he owns to help police restore order following the street fighting and a subsequent wave of lawlessness.

Turning to Russia

Separatists in the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk held referendums on self-rule Sunday, after which they declared independent people's republics in the two regions. Separatist leaders there have said they will not hold Ukraine's May 25 presidential election in their respective regions.

Separatist leaders in Donetsk say they have asked Moscow to consider formally absorbing the region into the Russian Federation, but on Thursday Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry as saying it had not received an official request from the "Donetsk People's Republic" to join Russia.
Britain and the United States have warned Russia they will issue broader economic sanctions if Moscow tries to disrupt Ukraine's May 25 election.

On Friday, President Obama spoke with French President Francois Hollande about Ukraine.  A statement from the White House said Obama repeated that Russia will face "additional costs" if it continues its provocative behavior. 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he hopes Russia will encourage pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to "work through the process that has now been opened up" -- an apparent reference to national unity talks that opened in Kyiv Wednesday, without the separatists' participation.

The U.N.'s Pillay appealed for an end to the ongoing rhetoric of hatred and propaganda. This, coupled with killings and other acts of violence, she says, is fueling the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.
  • Pro-Russian gunmen sit on an armored personnel carrier with the words read "Battalion Vostok (East) " as they patrol in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • Coal miners sit on a bus after finishing their shift at a coal mine outside Donetsk, Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk, speaks to citizens whose homes were ruined by shelling in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • Yekaterina Len cries inside the remains of her house damaged by shelling as her grandson stands near her, in Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • Presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko meets with supporters in the Cherkasy region, central Ukraine, May 20, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian militant defends a front line position with a machine gun, Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 19, 2014. 
  • Residents watch the flames from a damaged gas pipe that was hit by a mortar bomb, during fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian militants, outside Slovyansk, Ukraine, May 19, 2014. 
  • Pro-Russian militants detain three men they suspect of spying for the Ukrainian government in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, May 18, 2014. 
  • A pro-Ukrainian activist prepares to hoist the Ukrainian flag in the town of Velika Novosyolka, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, May 17, 2014.
  • A masked pro-Russian militant stands behind the barricades at a checkpoint blocking the major highway outside Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, May 17, 2014.

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Comment Sorting
by: MOD from: China
May 17, 2014 1:40 AM
Each side's opinion is depending on their country's propaganda.It's all truth but are all bias.Don't waste time on quarrelling.......FORCE makes everything.

by: Churbany from: Russia
May 16, 2014 4:47 PM
We completelly support Presidant Putin. In his support of Ukraine's russians he shouldn't care about squelling of West especially Germany. Go ahead with your sanctions. It will make us stronger and new iron curtain will help to sort out things with our libs.
In Response

by: Freedom_is_not_free from: USA
May 16, 2014 5:27 PM
That is called invader. If Russian people in Ukraine do not like Ukraine then leave the country. Russian is free to send ship or airplane to pick them up. There is no excuse to invade another country because Russians live in that country. Those people are traitors.

by: Pantea
May 16, 2014 4:42 PM
huh, Russia just published a report about violations against the Russian speaking population in the east an the massacre in Odessa. Each side is painting the other as the devil. NATO and Russia are fighting and Ukraine has to pay the price. So sick of media propaganda. Nothing but lies and lies and lies...

by: bob
May 16, 2014 4:28 PM
Extremely one-sided, amazingly it mention none of the atrocities by the Kiev power group that overthrew an democratically elected president.

by: Carlos.. from: Ukraine
May 16, 2014 1:39 PM
the response of President Obama and other Western leaders is despicable and cowardly.. Their so called sanctions are nothing.. What they should do is completely cut off all trade relations with the Kremlin and tell Crimea is returned and Russian troops leave the Ukrainian territory.. This is serious.. But the response is wishy washy mealy mouthed weak kneed ..
In Response

by: vitaliy from: usa
May 19, 2014 2:41 AM
Carlos, hm.. doesn't sound like Ukrainian name, Crimea had status of authonomy it was called as Autonomous Republic of Crimea and if they decided to join Russia after referendum they had some point and power to do that, do not forget that it was legal (keep in mind Serbia and Kossovo). Ukraine let Russia to keep her fleet and military base (not for free). I do not want US to send troops to Ukraine (because of Iraq, Afghanistan .... keep counting) also as US citizen I realize if US will send troops anywhere clocks with US debt will start counting even faster.
In Response

by: Ernest Okojie from: Nigeria
May 17, 2014 6:36 AM
At Reckie Glenn. So funny. You must be a clown. I love your post. Putin needs to be shut down to teach other dictators lesson
In Response

by: rickie glenn from: tampa
May 16, 2014 9:09 PM
not yet on the US troops spring has just start. We need to stack forces in Poland and Czechoslovakia a to force Russian to thin out its Military also since the Eastern port has thawed out a strong task force off Russia's eastern seaboard to really thin his forces making him pull the ones he moved from the east in the first place. To be brought back. Push Nato command and control closer to the action request a formal reversal and pull out of Russian forces from the Ukraine. Give him a week to complete it. If not done send one drone as leaves his home in the morning to board the chopper to go to Moscow. Boom no more helicopter and no more Putin. Then give the Russian Parliament final choice Remove forces or suffer what is to come. Send about 10 drones to 10 of the highest ranking Russian end lives. weaken command and control
In Response

by: Freedom_is_not_free from: USA
May 16, 2014 4:46 PM
I have to agree with Carlos. If I am Obama, I will send US forces to help Ukraine people to protect their country.

by: Jose from: Mexico
May 16, 2014 11:34 AM
Do this report mention any of the violations of human rights in whole Ukraine against Ukranian patriots who happens to protest against the current Kiev government?. For instance, it says anything about the massacre in Odessa where 40 protesters against Kiev government were burnt to death?.
If it failed to do so, then it is biased.
In Response

by: Freedom_is_not_free from: USA
May 16, 2014 4:50 PM
Hi! Jose,

What funny! Who are Ukranian patriots? They are indeed KGB agents and terrorists. Ukranian patriots are people who support the current Kiev government to protect their country from Russian invasion.
In Response

by: Albert from: Mongolia
May 16, 2014 4:37 PM
It all pales, compared to what's going on in Nigeria and Iraq. Why would UN spend so much attention on a minor civil strife?
In Response

by: Andrei from: Canada
May 16, 2014 4:09 PM
To Vladimir from "Sweden": it's getting more and more annoying. Whoever does not agree with "the ministry of truth" - propaganda from Moscow.Don't waste your time typing this.....
In Response

by: Vladimir from: Sweden
May 16, 2014 3:02 PM
"Jose" from Moscow should consider finding other avenues to spread your propaganda. We know who you are...

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