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Russia's seizure of Crimea denounced at UN rights forum

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 - 10:30pm IST | Agency: Reuters

More than 40 mainly Western countries led by the United States on Wednesday denounced Russia's annexation of Crimea and voiced concern for the fate of minority Tatars as well as missing activists and journalists.

In a joint statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council, they urged Russia to allow international monitors to deploy across Ukraine, "including Crimea".

Russia has agreed with the 56 other members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send a six-month monitoring mission to Ukraine, but said it had no mandate in Crimea.

Paula Schriefer, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, read a two-page statement to the Geneva forum from 42 countries, saying: "We call on Russia and all concerned to ensure full and unimpeded access and protection for the teams to all of Ukraine, including Crimea ..."

"We are deeply concerned about credible reports of kidnappings of journalists and activists, the blocking of independent media and the barring of independent international observers," she said.

"Furthermore, the situation of minorities in Crimea, in particular the Crimean Tatars, is extremely vulnerable since the Russian military incursion," she said, reading the statement signed by sponsors including the main European powers, Australia, Canada, Japan and former Soviet states Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova.

Russia's delegation was expected to take the floor to respond at the Council, where it is one of 47 member states.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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