The UN has criticized Kiev for serious human rights violations, noting, according to the Russian media, that Ukraine “kills its population”, “tortures” and “restricts freedom of speech”. In reality, the Russian press has tried to manipulate the public opinion by selectively using information from the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
NEWS: “The UN report on the situation in Ukraine has revealed some details about the nightmare that followed the Maidan. The head of the UN Monitoring Mission, Matilda Bogner, published the report for the period February 1 - July 31, 2021. Even UN experts, most of whom get their salaries from Soros and his team, could not hide their impudence in Ukraine - they are too obvious, it is impossible to ignore them”, REN TV reports.
“The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights confirms that in most cases the Ukrainian side is the one that opens fire in Donbass. These figures coincide with information from the LPR and DPR [self-proclaimed republics] military, who say they open fire only in response and not every time”, says EurAsia Daily, which analyzes only figures referring to military actions in eastern Ukraine.
“The report criticizes the sanctions imposed by authorities on the opposition press, namely the television stations 112 Ukraine, Zik and NewsOne [….] Another report will be published in three months. What it will contain is not difficult to predict. The new report will differ from the current one in numbers - less freedom of speech, more civilians and military killed in the Donbass by the Ukrainian army”, News Front reads, and the online publication The Strategic Culture Fund headlines the news about the UN report as follows: “Persecution of Russian speakers, barriers for the press, shootings of civilians – the UN about Ukraine”.
NARRATIVE: The UN has criticized Ukraine for persecuting Russian-speakers and opening fire on civilians in Donbass.
CONTEXT / LOCAL ETHOS: The UN publishes quarterly reports on human rights abuses in Ukraine in the context of Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the launch of military operations in Donbass. Several resolutions adopted by the General Assembly have over time denounced Moscow's violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, condemning Russian aggression. The EU, the USA, etc. have introduced sanctions against Russia for violating international law. On the other hand, Moscow claims that it has been guided by historical and international law, accepting the voluntary union of Crimea with Russia as a result of a referendum. The referendum, however, was not recognized by the international community and took place in the context in which the peninsula had already been occupied by “the little green men”.
Russia finances and supports mercenaries and separatist forces, formed within two self-proclaimed republics, LPR and DPR, which incorporate a small part of the Ukrainian occupied regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Ukraine and the Western countries have repeatedly accused Russia of supporting the separatists with equipment - including heavy weapons - and troops.
The UN reports refer both to the socio-political situation across Ukraine and to areas not controlled by the Kiev government. The Russian press has used these reports, without presenting the general background, to prove that Ukraine is a state that persecutes Russian speakers and kills civilians in Donbass.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this narrative is to demonstrate that Ukraine is a Russophobic state, a fact allegedly confirmed by the UN reports. Also, through such narratives, Moscow justifies itself in front of the domestic public opinion, arguing the need to intervene in order to protect its Russian-speaking population in Crimea and Donbass.
WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: In reality, most of the cases of human rights violation analyzed in the UN report concern Crimea and the Donbass territories, which are not under the control of Kiev, and that has been silenced by the Russian press. Moreover, in the same report the UN criticizes Russia for failing to follow the recommendations of UN experts and praises Ukraine for taking partial or total account of such advice: “The Ukrainian government has complied with 13 percent of the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, partially complied with 56% and failed to meet 13%; The Russian Federation hasn’t fully complied with any recommendation, has partially complied with 3 and has not complied with 97% of them”.
According to the UN report, illegally enrolling people in the local armed forces, blocking the crossing points on the demarcation line, killing civilians, violating the right to private property, forcing the granting of Russian citizenship, denying access to experts to monitor the situation regarding the observance of human rights, arrests, violence against women, violation of the right to protest and public assemblies, violation of the right to freedom of expression and religion, non-remuneration of work, are all taking place on the territory of the self-proclaimed republics of Lugansk and Donetsk. The UN criticizes Russia for not allowing several civil rights in Crimea where acts of torture, persecution, searches, lack of independent justice, violation of freedom of expression and religion have been reported. As all these happened in Crimea and Donbass, which are legally part of Ukraine, they have been included by the UN in the report on this state.
The Russian press does not mention these and other important elements included in the UN human rights report (arrests, tortured journalists and Crimean Tatars, newspapers and associations closed down) which are related to Moscow's direct responsibility, but only the notifications to Ukraine, interpreting unilaterally and selectively the conclusions of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. However, more than 75% of the report refers to the territories not controlled by Kiev. In this context, the Russian press has resumed various elements of its classic narratives on the “Kiev regime”, “Russophobia”, “Soros' people”, “Western puppets in Ukraine” and so on.
GRAIN OF TRUTH: The UN analyses in the report the closure of opposition television stations in Ukraine following the introduction of sanctions by Kiev as a result of the owners and sponsors of these media outlets collaborating with the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Various cases of aggression towards members of the LGBT community and other minorities are also mentioned. The law “On indigenous peoples” in Ukraine, which has generated additional interethnic tensions, is also touched upon.
The UN recommends that Ukraine consult further with representatives of indigenous peoples on their rights and aspirations. It is worth noting that none of these UN comments were mentioned as critical and systemic and do not include immediate recommendations, unlike those concerning Russia, which under Recommendations no. 136 and 137 is called upon to exercise its influence over the self-proclaimed LPR and DPR republics to have them comply with the ceasefire rules and to renounce the practice of human rights violations in Crimea.