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UN: Russia creating ‘stifling climate of fear’ in occupied territories

by Chris York and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 20, 2024 10:12 PM 2 min read
Russian soldiers patrol a street in occupied Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, on May 1, 2022. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Getty Images)
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Russia is committing widespread violations of international law, including unlawful detention and torture, to create a “stifling climate of fear” in occupied areas of Ukraine, the UN said on March 20.

A report compiled by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights based on interviews with more than 2,300 victims and witnesses said Russian forces have been acting with “generalized impunity” to target “any person perceived to oppose the occupation.”

“The actions of the Russian Federation have ruptured the social fabric of communities and left individuals isolated, with profound and long-lasting consequences for Ukrainian society as a whole,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk.

While Russia has occupied parts of Ukraine since the invasion of Crimea in 2014, the report focuses on those areas occupied since the launch of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

The report details several ways in which Russia has created this “climate of fear,” including arbitrary detention of civilians, torture and ill-treatment and what it said in some cases amounts to enforced disappearances.

Russia has also sought to take control of the information space, shutting down Ukrainian internet and mobile networks, TV and radio channels, with traffic re-routed through Russian networks.

Ukrainians have been encouraged to inform on one another, leaving them afraid even of their own friends and neighbors, the report said.

Peaceful protests, free expression and freedom of movement have also all been suppressed and Ukrainians have been pressured and coerced into taking Russian passports.

Homes and businesses have also been pillaged, according to the report.

The report concludes by calling once again on Russia to “immediately cease its armed attack against Ukraine and withdraw to internationally recognized borders.”

“Given the scale and depth of the violations suffered by those under occupation, a comprehensive approach to accountability that includes both criminal justice and wider measures promoting truth, and reparation, and which contributes to non-recurrence is needed,” Tusk said.

“The international community should support Ukraine in all these aspects.”

Russia’s presidential election was held in Ukraine’s occupied territories on March 15-17. There were reports that people in these territories were made to vote at gunpoint.

Sources in the occupied territories told the Kyiv Independent that Russian troops were taking people off the streets and forcing them into polling stations.

One video posted to social media allegedly showed a Russian soldier entering voting booths and checking who people were casting their ballot for.

In a statement on behalf of EU member states on March 18, Josep Borrell, the European Union's top diplomat, said the results of the election in the occupied territories were “null and void" and the election organizers "will face consequences of these illegal actions.”

Putin ‘wins’ rigged Russian election; Ukrainians in occupied territories vote at gunpoint
Russian authorities on March 15-17 held a presidential election in two countries – Russia and the regions of Ukraine brutally occupied by the Kremlin. The voting was neither free nor fair, with the result known in advance. In the occupied areas, voting was held illegally at gunpoint. In Russia, th…
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