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West slams Russia ‘fantasy narrative’ on Ukraine

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Western countries on the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday slammed what they called Russia’s “fantasy narrative” on the crisis in Ukraine after a new report on the human rights situation there.

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic warned the council that the violence in eastern Ukraine risks “seriously destabilizing the country as a whole.”

The meeting came a day before the top diplomats of Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union hold high-level talks in Geneva on an increasingly chaotic situation in which pro-Russian insurgents have seized police stations and government buildings in at least nine cities in the region. Russia has 40,000 troops massed on its border with Ukraine.

Western countries on the Security Council said the new report undermines Russia’s claims about the events that led to its recent annexation of Crimea, and they warned of a similar situation unfolding now.

“A new fantasy narrative,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant called Russia’s stance on the latest phase of the crisis.

“Virtual reality,” French Ambassador Gerard Araud said.

“A well-orchestrated professional campaign of incitement,” U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said.

Ultimately, the council is powerless to take action on Ukraine, as permanent member Russia holds veto power.

Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, called the human rights report “biased.” He emerged from the meeting declaring in Russian, “Eleventh! Eleventh!” That’s how many times the council has met on the crisis.

The human rights report, based on the findings of visits to Ukraine by Simonovic and by a U.N. monitoring mission there, declares the arming of protesters in eastern Ukraine must end and encourages “an inclusive, sustained and meaningful national dialogue.”

The report also takes aim at Russian claims that the large ethnic Russian minority in the region has been under attack there.

“Although there were some attacks against the ethnic Russian community, these were neither systematic nor widespread,” it says. It adds that the mood remains “particularly tense,” with fears by ethnic Russians that the country’s new government doesn’t represent them.

Ukraine’s new leaders have struggled since taking power after protesters wanting closers to ties with the European Union instead of Russia forced President Viktor Yanukovych to flee.

Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev told the council Wednesday that his country is determined to hold elections on May 25 “under all circumstances.” What his country needs to break from the corruption and other bad ways of the past, he said, “is that Russia leaves us in peace.”

The new report warns Ukraine’s new government against “the advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred by some political parties, group and individuals.” In his comments Wednesday, Simonovic singled out the largely marginal hardcore nationalist Right Sector movement.

Looking back at Russia’s rapid annexation on the largely Russian-speaking Crimea just weeks ago, Simonovic said “the presence of paramilitary and so-called self-defense groups, as well as soldiers in uniform without insignia, was not conducive to an environment in which voters could freely exercise their right to hold opinions.”

He also criticized the “media manipulation” that helped create a ‘climate of fear and insecurity in the period preceding the referendum.”

A second human rights report on the Ukraine crisis is set to come out May 15.

Associated Press

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