U.S. accuses Russia of covering up breaches of North Korea sanctions

By Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at a press briefing at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Russia on Thursday of seeking to cover up breaches of U.N. sanctions on North Korea by Russians after Moscow pushed for changes to be made to an independent report on sanctions violations.

The report, submitted to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee last month, said Pyongyang has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and is violating U.N. sanctions on exports.

Diplomats said Russia pressured the independent sanctions monitors to amend the report. The 15-member Security Council has to agree by consensus on whether to publish the report and the United States objected to releasing the amended document.

"Russia can't be allowed to edit and obstruct independent U.N. reports on North Korea sanctions just because they don't like what they say. Period," Haley said in a statement. "The full implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions remains mandatory for all member states – including Russia."

The Russian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The chair of the independent panel of U.N. sanctions monitors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The amended report removed some references to Russians accused of breaching sanctions on North Korea, said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Russia and China have suggested the Security Council discuss easing sanctions after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in June and Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization.

The United States and other council members have said there must be strict enforcement of sanctions until Pyongyang acts.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Alistair Bell)