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UN warns of alarming deterioration in human rights in east Ukraine

The UN has reported an "alarming deterioration" of human rights in eastern Ukraine. Monitors also cited serious problems for the Tatar community in Crimea.

OSCE Ukraine report cites human rights violations

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the organization's monitors had reported "targeted killings, torture and beatings, abductions, intimidation and some cases of sexual harassment" which it said were carried out by anti-government groups in the east of Ukraine.

While some people have been released, the bodies of others have been dumped in rivers or other areas and some remain unaccounted for, particularly in the Slavyansk area, according to the report.

The UN appeared to direct its comments towards Moscow: "Those with influence on the armed groups responsible for much of the violence in eastern Ukraine [must] do their utmost to rein in these men who seem bent on tearing the country apart," Pillay said in a statement accompanying

In a rapid response, Russia's foreign ministry issued its own comment: "The complete lack of objectivity, blatant discrepancies and double standards leaves 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 Kyiv."

The report has been issued just days before presidential elections in Ukraine on May 25.

Crimea difficulties

The report also cited problems facing residents in Crimea, annexed by Russia in March following a referendum similar to those held in the east of Ukraine.

It focused especially on the ethnic Tatar community and listed cases of physical harassment and intimidation, restrictions on media and fears of religious persecution among practicing Muslims.

The annexation was "creating difficulties" for Crimean residents, including the halting of an HIV/AIDS programme, the difference in Ukrainian and Russian laws and other citizenship issues. The UN said more than 7,200 people from Crimea, mostly Tatars, had become internally displaced in Ukraine.

Media challenged

The human rights report also highlighted concerns about the deteriorating climate for the media operating in the east, where rebels have proclaimed independence in two regions following weekend referendums branded illegal by Kiev, the EU and the US.

There has been a "worrying" rise in abductions and unlawful detention of journalists, activists, local politicians, representatives of international organizations and members of the military, according to the UN report.

jm/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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