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International

UN decries Russia's failure to protect Ukraine civilians

22:30, Tuesday, 19 December, 2023
UN decries Russia's failure to protect Ukraine civilians

United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday there had been an "extensive failure" by Russia to take adequate measures to protect civilians in Ukraine and that there were indications that Russian forces had committed war crimes.

Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said his office's monitoring indicated "gross violations of international human rights law, serious violations of international humanitarian law, and war crimes, primarily by the forces of the Russian Federation."

These violations, Turk said at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, included 142 cases of summary execution of civilians since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, as well as enforced disappearances, torture and ill treatment of detainees, including through sexual violence.

Russia has vigorously denied committing atrocities or targeting civilians in Ukraine.

"There has been extensive failure by the Russian Federation to take adequate measures to protect civilians and protect civilian objects against the effects of their attacks," Turk said.

He said the armed forces of both countries, but particularly Russia, needed to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law.

"They must cease the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, and scrupulously map the location of mines," he said.

In response, Russia's permanent mission to the U.N. in Geneva accused the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of "whitewashing" crimes committed by Ukrainian troops.

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