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Senator Bob Menendez (file photo)

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top Democratic member has called on the Commerce Department to stop U.S. companies from buying goods made by forced Uyghur laborers.

In a March 10 letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said leading U.S. companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Kraft Heinz, and The Gap “have sourced or continue to source” from China’s Turkic Muslim-dominated region of Xinjiang.

China holds about 1 million Uyghurs and other mostly Turkic Muslim minorities in internment camps in Xinjiang that Beijing claims are for “reeducation” and fighting terrorism.

Menendez said in his letter that China has forced some of them to work in nearby factories either during their detention or after, under the threat of being sent back.

“In failing to uphold their responsibilities to vet their supply chains, these companies may be complicit in the mass repression of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups,” his letter said.

Menendez called on the Commerce Department to “establish clear and transparent standards of procurement” for vetting goods made in Xinjiang. He also asked for information about any U.S. government contractors that source cotton from China.

Xinjiang accounts for 84 percent of China’s cotton production.

Yakutsk Mayor Sardana Avksentieva later said in an Instagram post that there was a case of rabies at the shelter. (illustrative photo)

Russian volunteers and animal rights activists were shocked and angry after finding about 100 dead cats and dogs they had been caring for piled in a container at an animal shelter in the nation’s Far Northeast region of Yakutsk.

“A very large number of bodies, very large” a female member of Bely Bim could be heard saying on March 9 in a somber voice as she recorded a video of the discovery of the dead animals.

The video was posted on Bely Bim’s Instagram page.

Several members had come to visit the animal shelter earlier in the day and were surprised to discover there were no dogs or cats in a segment of the shelter.

“There are no dogs. In the warm [shelter] there is not one dog. Not even a puppy. Girls, look for the bodies!” one of the women said as she videotaped her walk through the shelter.

One of her colleagues could be heard in the background screaming “bastards” as she cried.

The women later called police and together with at least one officer approached the shelter’s administrative office. A manager inside refused to open the door, prompting the women to try to force it open as they cursed him.

Yakutsk Mayor Sardana Avksentieva later said in an Instagram post on March 10 that there was a case of rabies at the shelter.

She said a decision on destroying the animals was made by the state veterinarian service, not the city administration or the management of the animal shelter.

Avksentieva said she has asked police to “give a legal assessment” of the decision to kill the animals and inform the city’s prosecutor.

Yakutsk residents said it is the second incident of cruel treatment of animals in the city in recent months. Hundreds of cats and dogs died of cold and starvation at an outdoor animal shelter in January.

Yakutsk is Russia's coldest region, with temperatures often dipping below minus 50 degrees Celsius during winter.

With reporting by Interfax

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