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Russia demands UN probe over Odessa inferno

22 May 2014, 13:36

United Nations - Russia has called on the United Nations to investigate the fire in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa earlier this month that left dozens of pro-Moscow militants dead, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after a UN Security Council meeting on human rights issues in Ukraine, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said a letter had been sent to UN chief Ban Ki-moon "asking him to conduct an impartial investigation".

A UN probe was necessary due to evidence of "use of chemicals" in the blaze, he said, without giving further details.

Churkin cited past co-operation between the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as a reason for Ban's involvement.

"We do have a good co-operation with the OPCW... so it is logical that the secretary-general should take up the initiative and make sure there is a proper investigation," Churkin said.

More than 40 people died after the inferno at the 2 May trade union building in Odessa. Most of the dead were pro-Russian militants who had taken refuge inside the building after running battles with pro-Ukrainian activists.

Churkin meanwhile reiterated Russia's criticism of findings on the situation in eastern Ukraine made by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, describing them as "far from the truth".

Asked about upcoming elections on 25 May, Churkin said he did not believe the polls would be fair.

"I cannot see how they can claim they are proper elections when there is shelling and they are conducting a military operation," Churkin said, referring to action by Kiev authorities against pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine.

"We'll see what happens on 25 May and then we'll take a position," he said.

Simonovic said the climate in eastern Ukraine was "not favourable" for elections, adding that election officials had been subjected to "kidnappings and intimidation".

Simonovic added that the Odessa inferno was the subject of five separate inquiries by domestic and international authorities, including a probe by the Council of Europe.


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