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Kerry Deplores Rights Situation in E. Ukraine


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks to the United Nations Human Rights Council March 2, 2015, in Geneva.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks to the United Nations Human Rights Council March 2, 2015, in Geneva.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging the United Nations to investigate abuses in Russia-annexed Crimea, as well as in rebel-held parts of eastern Ukraine, where thousands of people have been killed in nearly a year of violence.

"In Crimea and in the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, men, women and children are being killed, they are being tortured, they are being raped and sexually assaulted. Detained arbitrarily, abducted for ransom, forced into labor, prosecuted and persecuted because of who they are and where they worship, said Kerry. "It is up to the HRC [Human Rights Council] to shed light on it and to help to hold accountable those who violate those human rights."

The top U.S. diplomat spoke Monday in Geneva before the U.N. Human Rights Council, following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Lavrov told the human rights forum that "tangible progress" has been achieved concerning the cease-fire in Ukraine, and he urged Kyiv to distance itself from what he called "extremists."

Ukraine and many Western countries hold Russia responsible for much of the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, a charge Moscow denies.

In a meeting with reporters in Geneva, Kerry said continued "broad swaths of noncompliance" with the Minsk cease-fire agreement between Russia and Ukraine would be met with additional consequences that could further strain the Russian economy.

The United States and its European allies are considering additional sanctions against Moscow for its actions in Ukraine, where President Petro Poroshenko has said Russian-backed separatists continue to violate a cease-fire agreement.

Despite what Kyiv and the West say is incontrovertible evidence, Russia has consistently denied supporting the rebels.

The U.N. Human Rights Office said Monday more than 6,000 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since April 2014, despite successive cease-fires.

Before their addresses to the Human Rights Council, Kerry and Lavrov met for more than an hour to discuss the Ukraine conflict and other issues between the countries. No details of their discussions were released.

Their meeting came less than a week after Kerry told the U.S. Congress that Russian officials have lied to him about Moscow's involvement in Ukraine.

During his meeting with Lavrov Kerry also reiterated a call by President Barack Obama and other world leaders for a full and transparent investigation into the murder late Friday of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

They also talked about U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura's trip to Damascus and efforts to bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people by reaching a political solution to the four-year old conflict in the country, Psaki said.

VOA's Pam Dockins contributed to this report from Geneva.

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