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UN report: Rampant misinformation and propaganda in Ukraine

A pro-Russia protester stands at a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk
A pro-Russia protester stands at a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine on April 15, 2014.

Misinformation, propaganda, and incitement to hatred are running rampant in Ukraine, according to a United Nations human rights report released Tuesday. 

"Facts on the ground need to be established to help reduce the risk of radically different narratives being exploited for political ends,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement announcing the report. "People need a reliable point of view to counter what has been widespread misinformation and also speech that aims to incite hatred on national, religious or racial grounds.”

The report comes as Russia and the West continue to feud over the facts of the crisis in Ukraine, with ambassadors sparring in an United Nations Security Council meeting. On Monday, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone, with Russia continuing to deny its influence in southeastern Ukraine, according to a Kremlin statement on the call. The U.S. characterized the conversation as “frank and direct,” adding, “Russia's actions are neither consistent with or conducive to” a diplomatic solution.

The U.N. report blew holes in much of the Russian narrative on Crimea, a region of Ukraine that recently voted to secede and become part of Russia. The U.N. report found no evidence of widespread and systematic attacks on ethnic-Russians and cast significant doubt on the fairness and viability of the region’s vote to rejoin Russia.

“The presence of paramilitary and so-called self-defense groups as well as soldiers without insignia, was not conducive to an environment in which the will of voters could be exercised freely, and the UN Human Rights' Office delegation received many reports of vote rigging,” the report said.

The U.N. report, released by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, found evidence of 121 civilian deaths in the protests that have gripped the country over the past several months.

Download the full report here [Microsoft Word document].