Ukraine pushes UN to step up scrutiny of Crimea


United Nations (United States) (AFP)

Ukraine on Tuesday launched a bid at the United Nations to condemn rights abuses in Crimea and press Russia to allow UN monitors to visit the territory.

Backed by 38 countries including the United States, France and Britain, Ukraine presented a draft resolution that for the first time puts Crimea under scrutiny by the General Assembly's human rights committee.

"Crimea is not just a Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia," said Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko.

"Crimea is 2.5 million people suffering from the authoritarian regime, frightened and helpless without any chance to defend their rights."

The measure condemns 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.

It 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.

Rights groups have 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 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.

The draft resolution is expected to come up for a vote on Tuesday.

Taking the floor, Russia's deputy UN ambassador dismissed the measure as "one-sided", saying it ignored Ukraine's decision to cut off trade, electrical power and banking services to Crimeans.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Evgeniy Zagaynov accused Ukraine of "stepping up the information campaign against Russia in an attempt to exert pressure on our country."

Last month, Russia suffered a diplomatic setback at the United Nations when it failed to win reelection to the Human Rights Council during a vote that rights groups said was linked to Moscow's bombing campaign in Syria.