UPDATE 1-Russia rejects UN report Ukraine's ethnic Russians face no widespread abuse

Mon Mar 17, 2014 8:33am EDT

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MOSCOW, March 17 (Reuters) - Russia rejected as biased on Monday an assessment by a United Nations official who questioned accusations that Ukraine's Russian-speaking population faced systematic human rights abuses.

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement criticised U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic who said last week there had been violations against ethnic Russians in Ukraine but said there was no evidence they were "widespread or systematic".

"The biased, prejudiced and unobjective assessment of I. Simonovic on the human rights situation in the country calls forth surprise and confusion," said the ministry in a statement.

Russia has effectively seized control of Ukraine's broadly Russian-speaking Crimea region, which voted in a referendum on Sunday to secede and join Russia. There are also large Russian-speaking populations in the east of the country.

The statement also criticised Simonovic for a statement of concern over the state of human rights for ethnic Tatars in Crimea.

Two pro-Russian activists and one pro-Ukrainian protester have been killed in clashes in eastern Ukraine. Russia has criticised moves by Kiev's leadership to strike down Russian as an official language in Ukraine.

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