Russia's seizure of Crimea denounced at U.N. rights forum

Reuters

GENEVA (Reuters) - More than 40 mainly Western countries led by the United States on Wednesday denounced Russia's annexation of Crimea and voiced concern for the fate of minority Tatars as well as missing activists and journalists.

In a joint statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council, they urged Russia to allow international monitors to deploy across Ukraine, "including Crimea".

Russia has agreed with the 56 other members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send a six-month monitoring mission to Ukraine, but said it had no mandate in Crimea.

Paula Schriefer, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, read a two-page statement to the Geneva forum from 42 countries, saying: "We call on Russia and all concerned to ensure full and unimpeded access and protection for the teams to all of Ukraine, including Crimea ..."

"We are deeply concerned about credible reports of kidnappings of journalists and activists, the blocking of independent media and the barring of independent international observers," she said.

"Furthermore, the situation of minorities in Crimea, in particular the Crimean Tatars, is extremely vulnerable since the Russian military incursion," she said, reading the statement signed by sponsors including the main European powers, Australia, Canada, Japan and former Soviet states Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova.

Russia's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Alexey Borodavkin, rejected the statement as containing statements that were "far from the truth" while ignoring human rights issues faced by the Ukrainian people.

Crimean Tatars would be given all rights in Russia, including the right to speak their national native language, he said.

"This crisis was raised by very ugly forces, the ultranationalists, the neo-Nazis and racists," he said, adding that while not being many in number, they had "decisive influence on the domestic and foreign policy course of Ukraine".

"The ultranationalists are threatening the other minorities including the Jews, the Poles, the Czechs and the Hungarians," Borodavkin said.

Ukraine was "on the brink of financial collapse" and resources promised by the West were insufficient, but Russia was ready to give the legitimate government of Ukraine credit amounting to $15 billion, he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Sonya Hepinstall)

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