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Thursday 12 May 2022

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has said that thousands of corpses have been found in the region of Kyiv after the retreat of Russian forces in what may be evidence of war crimes. (file photo)

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has overwhelmingly approved a resolution to set up an investigation into allegations of abuses by Russian troops in areas of Ukraine they temporarily controlled.

The vote on May 12 was 33 members in favor and two countries -- China and Eritrea -- opposed.

Twelve countries abstained from the vote at the Geneva-based council.

The UNHRC's resolution cited apparent cases of torture, shootings, and sexual violence, along with other atrocities documented by a UN team on the ground.

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who heads the council, said earlier that thousands of corpses have been found in the region of Kyiv after the retreat of Russian forces in what may be evidence of war crimes.

She said via videolink that authorities were working to verify the violations as Russia's war against Ukraine, which it launched in February, intensifies.

"The scale of unlawful killings, including indications of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking," Bachelet told the UNHRC as it debates whether to launch an official investigation into what happened when Russian forces moved into the Kyiv region as they looked to take the capital, only to encounter fierce resistance and eventually pull back in early April.

On May 12, the UNHRC condemned atrocities documented by experts in Russian-occupied territories and demanded access for humanitarian workers to people who have been taken from Ukraine to Russia since the invasion began.

It cited allegations that many have been forced to go to Russia.

In the wake of the withdrawal of Russian troops from districts north of Kyiv, officials have been looking at whether civilians were summarily killed or executed by Russian troops, as well as a growing body of evidence pointing to possible rape and sexual violence.

Some of the victims had their hands tied behind their back.

Russian authorities claim that their forces have not attacked civilians in Ukraine and said evidence has been staged in order to justify new Western sanctions against Moscow and to disrupt the peace negotiation process.

Aleksei Ulyukayev appears in court during his trial in December 2017.

Former Russian Economy Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2017 for bribery, has been released from prison after prosecutors decided not to appeal a court ruling last month that accepted his request for early parole.

Ulyukayev left Correctional Colony No. 1 on May 12, climbing into a Range Rover SUV vehicle that was accompanied by two more vehicles without license plates.

A court in Tver ruled on April 27 that it would grant Ulyukayev his request for an early release, saying that the ruling would take force on May 12 if prosecutors did not launch an appeal.

Ulyukayev was convicted in December 2017 of taking a "large bribe" and sentenced to eight years in a strict-regime prison. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 130 million rubles ($1.8 million).

Ulyukayev, who was fired by President Vladimir Putin hours after his arrest in the middle of the night in November 2016, is the highest Russian official to be arrested since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

He was found guilty of taking a $2 million in cash from the head of state-run oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin. Sechin is a longtime Putin associate.

Prosecutors said the bribe was given in exchange for Ulyukayev approving the sale of Bashneft, a state-controlled oil company, to Rosneft.

Police detained Ulyukayev inside Rosneft headquarters shortly after Sechin handed him the cash inside a lockable brown bag, prosecutors said.

Ulyukayev has said he thought the package contained a gift but that a trap had been set for him.

Ulyukayev, 66, was seen as a member of the liberal camp in the Russian ruling elite, while Sechin, a longtime former deputy chief of staff at the Kremlin, is perceived as a hard-liner and one of Putin's closest allies.

With reporting by RIA Novosti and TASS

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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