A top official in Kyiv on Monday challenged a U.N. report on human rights in Ukraine that said searches in the buildings of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate could be discriminatory.
The report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights came as the church has faced backlash from its deep ties to Russia and the discovery of Russian passports and anti-Ukrainian propaganda during the nationwide raids on its religious sites.
The report stressed the need to ensure that “all those facing criminal charges enjoy the full spectrum of applicable fair trial rights.”
Ukraine Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Oleh Nikolenko, in a Facebook post, urged the U.N. agency to refrain from “unbalanced political assessments” and base their reports on facts.
“Ukraine is a democratic state in which freedom of religion is guaranteed,” Nikolenko said. “At the same time, freedom does not equal the right to engage in activities that undermine national security.”
ADS AND CASH:Advertising splash and cash: Kremlin urges Russians to join the fight in Ukraine as Putin vows to move nukes: Updates
►Secretary of State Antony Blinken chairs a virtual panel session Tuesday on “A Just and Lasting Peace in Ukraine,” featuring Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
►International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi joined Zelenskyy in viewing damage to the Dnipro hydroelectric station that helps sustains nuclear safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
►Prosecutors in Poland say a foreign national suspected of spying for Russia will be held for three months pending investigation. The suspect, in Poland since January, has collected information about key infrastructure and security procedures, prosecutors said.
Moscow unmoved by outrage over plan to put nukes in Belarus
Reactions from the West will not affect Russia’s plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
“Such a reaction, of course, cannot change Russia’s plans. The president explained everything in his statements,” Peskov told reporters. “There is nothing to add.”
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby rejected Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s justification for moving the nukes – Britain providing Ukraine with rounds containing depleted uranium – saying the armor piercing ammunition is not a nuclear threat, is common on the battlefield and that Russia also uses it.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted that Putin’s decision was an “irresponsible escalation & threat to European security,” a position echoed by NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.
Civilian toll continues to rise
Ukraine has suffered 22,424 civilian casualties since the start of the war, including 8,401 killed and 14,023 injured, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights announced. The agency “believes that the actual figures are considerably higher” because counts in many areas have been delayed or are pending corroboration. Chief among those areas the Donetsk and Lunansk regions of the Donbas, where Russians occupy most of the territory and where fighting in recent weeks has been most fierce.
Contributing: The Associated Press