By Emma Farge
GENEVA (Reuters) -A group of European Union countries has agreed to ask the U.N. Human Rights Council to appoint a newly-created independent expert on alleged human rights abuses in Russia, three sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters on Thursday.
The creation of a mandate for a new Special Rapporteur, decided in a closed-door meeting on Thursday, follows stronger Russian laws this year to punish people Moscow says discredit the armed forces or spread fake information.
The timing of the proposal’s submission is not clear but it is set to be decided on, possibly through a vote, in early October.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Kremlin did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said earlier this week that Russia was intimidating opponents of the war in Ukraine and violating the right to access to information.
Russia’s diplomatic mission in Geneva was not immediately available for comment on the resolution. Russia formerly had voting rights on the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council but was suspended in April over its invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow has previously called criticism of its domestic rights record unfounded and denied targeting civilians in Ukraine where it says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to destroy Ukraine’s military infrastructure.
The EU bloc has been discussing the possible Russia resolution for months but faced internal opposition most recently from EU member Hungary which is not among the signatories, the sources said. Luxembourg will lead the resolution which is supported by 26 EU countries and will now be opened for further country signatures.
(Reporting by Emma FargeEditing by Riham Alkousaa and Josie Kao)