Ukraine: Alarming deterioration of human rights before polls, says UN

Kiev: The United Nations warned today of an "alarming deterioration" of human rights in eastern Ukraine, where an armed insurgency by pro-Russian separatists is threatening a presidential election just over a week away.

 Ukraine: Alarming deterioration of human rights before polls, says UN

People stand in a line to enter a polling station and take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in Moscow. Reuters

In a new report, the UN's rights chief catalogued a litany of "targeted killings, torture and beatings, abductions, intimidation and some cases of sexual harassment" which it said was carried out by anti-government groups in the east.

With the 25 May vote rapidly approaching, Kiev's interim leaders are battling to keep Ukraine from disintegrating further after Russia's annexation of Crimea in March.

Government forces are pressing on with a military offensive to put down the bloody rebellion in Ukraine's industrial belt where well-armed insurgents have already seized over a dozen towns and cities in just a few weeks.

The West has been pushing an OSCE peace plan to try to resolve the escalating crisis on Europe's doorstep, while threatening further sanctions if Moscow or its "proxies" disrupt the election.

In a veiled reference to Russia, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on those with influence on the armed groups in the east "to do their utmost to rein in these men who seem bent on tearing the country apart".

She also voiced deep concern about "serious problems" of harassment and intimidation facing the Tatar community in Crimea, which was taken over by Russia in the face of international outrage.

But Moscow blasted the report as biased in favour of the new leaders in Kiev, who took power in February after months of pro-EU protests that led to the ouster of Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

"The complete lack of objectivity, blatant discrepancies and double standards leave no doubts that (the report's) authors were performing a political put-up job aimed at clearing the name of the self-declared authorities in Kiev," the foreign ministry said.

In Kiev, the Polish and Swedish foreign ministers were holding talks with Ukrainian leaders to pledge their backing for the vote, seen by the West as key to preventing the country from descending into all-out war.

Two of the main eastern regions, Donetsk and Lugansk, have already proclaimed sovereignty after weekend independence referendums rejected as illegitimate by Kiev and the West, raising concerns about how election will be conducted in rebel-held areas.

AFP

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Updated Date: May 16, 2014 20:32:38 IST