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U.S., Russia Spar Over Ukraine Conflict At UN Meeting

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin (left) accused U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power (right) of "introducing wrong elements" into a Security Council discussion. (file photo)
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin (left) accused U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power (right) of "introducing wrong elements" into a Security Council discussion. (file photo)

The United States and Russia traded accusations on December 11 over the conflict in Ukraine at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council.

Russia delayed the meeting for an hour and a half with an attempt to block testimony by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, prompting Washington to accuse the Kremlin of trying to suppress public discussion of facts about Ukraine's war with pro-Russian separatists in the east.

In the end, Simonovic spoke at the meeting despite protests from Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who said human rights discussions should take place in Geneva at the Human Rights Council.

Churkin accused U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who is chairing the Security Council this month, of "introducing wrong elements" into discussion. Power also overruled Russia and China at a meeting she chaired on North Korean rights abuses on December 10.

"Washington is playing a destructive role" in Ukraine, Churkin said. "Obviously, this is one of the reasons why political settlement is so difficult."

Power said Russia was the one perpetrating death and destruction, and accused the Kremlin of trying to suppress the facts.

"One does wonder what Russia seeks to hide" by opposing discussions of human rights in Ukraine, she said. "But we understand its very unfortunate desire to prevent the council from hearing inconvenient facts."

Power cited the latest UN report on Ukraine, which said arms and fighters were still pouring into eastern Ukraine from Russia, with the death toll from 20 months of fighting approaching 9,100.

"We are here because even today Russia continues to arm, train, support, and fight alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine," Power said.

Russia denies arming and financing the separatists.

Simonovic recited fresh allegations of human rights abuses in eastern Ukraine: "killings, torture and ill-treatment, illegal detention and forced labor." He also said the Kyiv government has engaged in arbitrary detention, torture, and other abuses.

Churkin said Kyiv was maintaining an economic blockade of eastern Ukraine and refusing to engage in direct dialogue with the separatists.

Moreover, he said Kyiv has "demonstrated complete inaction" against "radical natonalists" who were responsible for blowing up the electricity transmission pylons feeding power to Crimea.

Power urged Kyiv to speed up efforts to ensure supplies and services make it to the east. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin blamed Russia for the blockages.

Despite the sharp exchange, Churkin and Klimkin shook hands at the end of the meeting.

With reporting by Reuters and TASS
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