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UN rights chief moves Kyiv meeting underground as sirens sound

GENEVA, December 6 ------ The UN rights chief said he had met with activists in an underground shelter in Kyiv as missiles rained down, warning against allowing the situation to become "a new normal."

Volker Turk, who took over as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in October, arrived for a four-day visit to Ukraine, which has been ravaged by war since Russia's full-scale invasion in February. He had scheduled to meet with a number of human rights defenders in Kyiv, but then air sirens sounded and they had to move into an underground shelter.

In a shaky video seen by AFP, Turk was seen among a large group moving quickly along an alleyway and then down a flight of steps lined with cinder block walls as alarms wailed above them. "I was on the point of meeting human rights defenders on my second day in Kyiv, and I had to move the meeting down here, to this shelter... because air sirens went off," Turk said in the video, provided by his office.

"And as we were having this discussion here in this shelter there was a wave of missile attacks against Ukraine, including some of them ending up in the proximity of Kyiv," he said. The video as well as a picture that Turk tweeted out showed him and other high-ranking UN rights officers sitting in the cold, dark cellar, bundled up in winter coats. "Unbelievable that this is happening almost daily in Ukraine," he said in the tweet. "This must not become a new normal."

During his Ukraine visit, which is due to wrap up on December 7, Turk is scheduled to visit the capital and neighboring areas, as well as Kharkiv and Izium in the east and Uzhhorod in the west. His office said last week he would meet with senior national and local government officials, as well as civil society, and representatives of victims' groups, including relatives of missing or captured civilians and prisoners of war.



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