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Russian Envoy Cries Foul, Vows To Regain UN Rights Council Seat

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin vowed to try to regain Russia's seat on the UN Human Rights Council next year.
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin vowed to try to regain Russia's seat on the UN Human Rights Council next year.

Russian officials have cried foul at being voted off the United Nations' Human Rights Council and vowed to regain Moscow's seat in a bid next year.

"We need a break," said Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on October 28 after the vote, noting that Russia was beaten out by Croatia and Hungary.

"Croatia and Hungary, fortunately because of their size, they are not as exposed to the winds of international diplomacy. Russia is quite exposed," Churkin said.

Moscow's diplomat took solace from the fact that the vote was close, with Croatia getting 114 votes compared to Russia's 112 and Hungary's 144. The three countries were competing for two regional seats on the council, which monitors and investigates rights violations worldwide.

"It was a very close vote," he said. "We have been there a number of years, I'm sure next time we're going to get in."

Some Russian lawmakers interviewed by Russian media blamed the unexpected ouster on the United States and its allies in Europe, saying they worked behind the scenes to deal a diplomatic blow to Moscow as part of a campaign to punish Russia for its actions in Syria and Ukraine.

While U.S. officials have not claimed responsibility for the move, they privately told reporters they were pleased at the message it sent to Moscow.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry thanked UN members for including the United States among the 14 countries elected to the council, and said: "As with all fora, the Human Rights Council is only as strong as its members."

More than 80 human rights groups had made no secret that they were targeting Russia, and expressed satisfaction with the vote.

"UN member states have sent a strong message to the Kremlin about its support for a regime that has perpetrated so much atrocity in Syria," said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch.

Despite also being targeted by human rights groups for an ouster like Russia, Saudi Arabia won reelection to the council. China, Cuba, and Egypt -- three other countries often cited for having dubious rights records -- also won seats.

"The non-election of Russia shows that the nations of the world can reject gross abusers if they so choose. This makes the election of Saudi Arabia, China, and Cuba even more preposterous," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, and TASS
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