Rus­sians voted off UN panel

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - — As­so­ci­ated Press As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted.

UNITED NA­TIONS — The Gen­eral Assem­bly voted Rus­sia off the U.N. Human Rights Coun­cil on Fri­day, a sting­ing re­buke to the coun­try that is be­ing ac­cused of war crimes over its ac­tions in Syria.

The 193-mem­ber Gen­eral Assem­bly elected 14 mem­bers to 47-na­tion coun­cil, the U.N.’s main body charged with pro­mot­ing and pro­tect­ing human rights.

Rus­sia, which re­ceived 112 votes, lost its re­gional seat to Hun­gary, with 144 votes, and Croa­tia with 114 votes.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, France and in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tors said Syr­ian or Rus­sian planes car­ried out Wed­nes­day’s at­tack, but Moscow de­nied con­duct­ing air op­er­a­tions in the area.

“If de­lib­er­ate, this at­tack may amount to a war crime,” United Na­tions Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Ban Ki­moon said in a state­ment.

Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry has called for an “ap­pro­pri­ate in­ves­ti­ga­tion” of whether Rus­sia and Syria have com­mit­ted war crimes for bomb­ing civil­ians and med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties in the be­sieged Aleppo.

Rus­sia and Syria claim to be hon­or­ing a “hu­man­i­tar­ian pause” in Aleppo and other parts of east­ern Syria to al­low evac­u­a­tion of the wounded and to de­liver med­i­cal and food aid.

But Sa­man­tha Power, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the U.N., was crit­i­cal of the Rus­sian ef­fort.

“You don’t get con­grat­u­la­tions and get credit for not com­mit­ting war crimes for a day or a week,” she said Wed­nes­day at the U.N.

On Tuesday, Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Direc­tor James Clap­per warned that Rus­sia could shoot down a U.S. war­plane with the groundto-air de­fense sys­tem it has built in Syria.

“I wouldn’t put it past them to shoot down an Amer­i­can air­craft if they felt that was threat­en­ing to their forces on the ground,” Clap­per said at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions in New York.

Gen. Joseph Vo­tel, com­man­der of U.S. forces in the Mid­dle East, has in­di­cated that he is will­ing to in­crease mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary talks with Rus­sia to pre­vent a mid-air col­li­sion or po­ten­tial shoot-down.

The Pen­tagon and Rus­sian mil­i­tary es­tab­lished a hot­line after Rus­sia en­tered the war in 2015.

The two sides speak three times a week on the so- called de­con­flic­tion calls, of­fi­cials said.

LEE JIN-MAN/AP

Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and U.S. Am­bas­sador to the UN Sa­man­tha Power ques­tion Rus­sia’s con­duct in Syria.

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