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China votes against UN probe into alleged Russian war crimes

China has voted against a UN Human Rights Council investigation into possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine amid concern that the probe is politically motivated, shifting from its previous stance of abstaining on the conflict.

“We have noted that in recent years the politicization and confrontation at the [council] has been on the rise, which has severely impacted the credibility, impartiality and the solidarity,” said Chen Xu, the top Chinese diplomat at the UN office in Geneva.

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Chen made his comments before the Human Rights Council voted on Thursday – by a 33-2 margin with 12 abstentions – to approve a resolution calling for the war-crimes probe. Eritrea was the only other nation to vote no. Members that abstained included Armenia, Bolivia, Cameroon, Cuba, India, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Pakistan, Senegal, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

The investigation will apparently only include allegations against Russia, not crimes allegedly perpetrated by Ukrainian troops, and will focus on events in the Kiev, Chernigov, Kharkov and Sumy regions of Ukraine in late February and early March. It will be done “with a view to holding those responsible to account,” according to the resolution.

Areas that came under Russian control early in the conflict, which began on February 24, “have experienced the most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades,” Ukrainian deputy foreign minister Emine Dzheppar told the council.

READ MORE: Anti-Russia sanctions triggering global food and energy crises – China

Moscow’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, argued that the “collective West” is organizing a “political rout to demonize Russia” rather than addressing the true causes of the Ukraine crisis and looking for ways to resolve those issues.

The UN General Assembly voted last month to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. China also voted against in that case, but it had abstained on other Ukraine-related resolutions, including a General Assembly condemnation of Russia’s military offensive and a UN Security Council rebuke of Moscow.

Speaking at a Security Council meeting on Thursday in New York, Chinese deputy UN ambassador Dai Bing argued that anti-Russia sanctions will backfire. “Sanctions will not bring peace but will only accelerate the spillover of the crisis, triggering sweeping food, energy and financial crises across the globe,” he said.

READ MORE: Russia comments on allegations of violence against children in Ukraine

Russia attacked Ukraine following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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