Senior United Nations official Ivan Šimonovic is meeting with local authorities in Kharkiv, Ukraine, today to discuss human rights-related measures that can be taken to help de-escalate tensions in the country.
“He is also raising with the authorities the allegations regarding human rights violations, and meeting with a range of pro-Russian as well as pro-Ukrainian civil society representatives,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told reporters in Geneva.
Mr. Šimonovic, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, is in Ukraine to stress the “paramount” importance of ensuring respect for international human rights laws and standards during these difficult times, Ms. Shamdasani stated.
“He is assessing the human rights situation in the region, calling for respect for human rights and discussing options for the UN and international partners to assist in strengthening capacity on the ground where necessary.”
Mr. Šimonovic, who is based in New York, was dispatched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on a week-long mission to Ukraine to continue the UN’s high-level engagement with the country, to assess the human rights situation, and to develop recommendations for further action.
Senior UN officials have appealed to all parties to de-escalate tensions and to engage in direct and constructive dialogue to forge a peaceful way forward in Ukraine, which has been witnessing unrest for several months.
Tensions heightened last week as lawmakers in the autonomous Ukrainian region of Crimea, where additional Russian troops and armoured vehicles have recently been deployed, voted to join Russia and to hold a referendum on 16 March to validate the decision.
Although Mr. Šimonovic had planned to travel to Crimea on Wednesday, it was announced today that he will not be able to do so due to logistical constraints, especially given the fact that the airport there is closed for flights coming from other regions of Ukraine. He will instead travel to Lviv.
So far during his visit, he has met with the Acting Foreign Minister, the Ombudsperson, human rights defenders, the diplomatic community and the various UN agencies working in the capital, Kiev. He is due to hold further high-level meetings there on Friday.