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Nothing to hide: Top Russian lawmaker offers UN officials trip to Crimea amid US-backed human rights row

Nothing to hide: Top Russian lawmaker offers UN officials trip to Crimea amid US-backed human rights row
Accusations of human rights violations on the Crimean Peninsula are an invention, according to a leading Russian politician, who has told United Nations representatives to visit the region and see for themselves.

After the UN adopted a resolution condemning alleged discrimination in Crimea, which was reabsorbed by Russia in 2014, Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Committee on International Affairs, said the body was “biased.” According to him, the move was driven by “the collective West and its satellite states.”

Slutsky criticized “conclusions about mythical oppression and violations of human rights in Crimea that are made in absentia, without evidence and without proof.” He added that “none of the accusers has ever been to the Peninsula and do not have a picture of what is happening since it became a part of the Russian Federation.”

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According to Slutsky, if UN officials want to verify the situation in the region, which Ukraine still claims as part of its territory, they should see it first-hand. “I am happy to help organise a special UN fact-finding mission to Crimea as soon as the global epidemiological situation allows... Because the simple fact is that allegations of harassment and persecution in Crimea do not correspond to the truth.”

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of a Ukrainian-sponsored resolution that alleged widespread human rights infringements in Crimea, including “arbitrary detentions,” “sexual and gender-based violence,” and even “torture.”

Moscow has strongly denied the allegations, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova telling journalists on Thursday that Ukraine was “using the UN platform to peddle its groundless political and territorial claims to Crimea.”

Russia has repeatedly invited journalists and observers to visit the peninsula in the past. However, Kiev has sought to make any journeys difficult, threatening to blacklist and bar anyone who crosses into Crimea without having first been through Ukraine on a valid visa. Authorities especially make it hard for journalists, who are forced to wait for days until their application is processed and then must travel, usually overland on poor roads, for around nine hours, to reach the border. With Ukraine also having banned direct flights from Moscow, it’s difficult for correspondents to access Crimea on terms agreeable to Kiev.

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In 2018, Ukraine’s Border Guard announced that it had banned almost 1,500 people for visits to the region, which has historically been a popular holiday destination for both Russians and Ukrainians.

The United States has championed the resolution at the UN in New York, with its representatives not just claiming that Crimeans face widespread discrimination, but also calling for Russia to “return full control of the Peninsula to Ukraine.” 

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