GENEVA (AP) — All European Union nations except Hungary are moving forward at the U.N.'s human rights body to hold Russia's government accountable for a crackdown on media, arbitrary arrests, restrictions on free speech and other rights concerns after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine this year, diplomats said Thursday.
Back-channel negotiations at the Human Rights Council by 26 EU nations hope to give teeth — such as by appointing a rights expert to work on Russia — to efforts to keep tabs on rights violations in Russia. The move, if successful, would add a new element of scrutiny on Russia. A team of U.N.-backed investigators is already looking into rights abuses related to the war in Ukraine.
Efforts to draft a resolution, spearheaded by EU member Luxembourg, would create a “special rapporteur” on Russia to chronicle and call out rights violations in Russia — such as arbitrary detentions, arrests of members of civil society, the closure of NGOs and independent press groups, said a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Two Western diplomats said Hungary, whose government under Prime Minister Viktor Orban has resisted some EU efforts to punish Russia over the war, had not joined with other EU members in pushing for the resolution.
The Russian government has taken a number of steps to limit dissent over the war at home. Russia had been a member of the 47-member state council until earlier this year, when it suspended its participation on its own just as the U.N. General Assembly was set to strip Russia of its council membership over the war.
The council's four-week autumn session began Monday, and resolutions will not be voted on until the final days of the session.
On Tuesday, Vaclav Balek, the Czech ambassador in Geneva, spoke on behalf of the EU to say the bloc condemned media censorship, the silencing of independent voices and abuse of Russian legislation that forbids “so-called 'discrediting' of the Russian armed forces and raising of any allegations of crimes committed by Russian armed forces in Ukraine.”
Russia has fired back, accusing some EU nations of reviving “Nazism” and faulting some Western countries for restricting broadcasts of the Russia Today network, among other things.
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