July 19, 2024

GENEVA (AP) — Western countries on Monday repeatedly called on Russia to end domestic repression of dissident voices and end its war in Ukraine — and human rights violations related to it — as Russia came under a regular review at the U.N.’s top rights body.

A delegation from Moscow, led by State Secretary and Deputy Justice Minister Andrei Loginov, defended Russia’s right to ensure law and order by restricting some forms of protest or voices that might threaten domestic security. He also said Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine had “no relation to the subject matter” at issue in the review.

Monday’s 3 1/2-hour hearing in Geneva was part of an exercise known as the universal periodic review, or UPR, which all U.N. member states face about every four or five years in connection with the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council.

Russia came under widespread international condemnation after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine in February last year. Two separate teams of U.N.-backed investigators have been commissioned to look into both rights abuses carried out in Ukraine and domestically in Russia.

Western countries during Monday’s session denounced the deportation of Ukrainian children, Russia’s crackdown on civil society and the arrest of rights defenders, including Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza. They also condemned Russia for curbing the rights of LGBTQI people and those protesting against the war.

“Where does one start? Since the last UPR, Russia’s repression at home has intensified, enabling its oppression overseas — not least the continuing atrocities in Ukraine,” said Britain’s ambassador in Geneva.

Yevheniia Filipenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to U.N. institutions in Geneva, pointed to the “irrefutable evidence of Russia’s gross and systematic human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity” in her country, and denounced ongoing attacks on civilians including “killings, torture, rape, deportations.”

“For the endless list of international crimes, Russia will be held accountable,” she said.

Russian officials defended their security measures, saying that restrictions were aimed at preventing disruptions that could compromise security, and their stance on gender issues.

Many countries, particularly Moscow’s allies and others in the developing world, congratulated Russia on its touted achievements such as when it comes to protections of the rights of disabled people.

“I underscore the achievements of our country in the human rights sector, I cannot ignore the difficulties that we have had to encounter,” Loginov said, alluding to the pressure of international sanctions and restrictions on Russia’s role in world institutions.

He said Russia would listen to “all recommendations” that would abide by its constitution — but not those related to Ukraine.

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