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Russia loses election to UN rights council

United Nations (AFP): Russia on Friday failed to win re-election at the UN Human Rights Council during a vote that capped a campaign by rights groups to reject Moscow over its role in the war in Syria.

The UN General Assembly elected Hungary and Croatia instead to represent eastern Europe at the rights council, in a major upset for Moscow which has been a member for all but one year since the council was set up in 2006.

The 193 member-states voted to fill 14 seats at the 47-nation council, which is tasked with monitoring and investigating rights violations worldwide.

More than 80 human rights and aid organizations had urged UN member-states to vote Russia off the council for its military support of President Bashar al-Assad in the war in Syria.

Russia has been accused by western powers and rights groups of indiscriminate bombings in the monthlong Syrian government operation to seize rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

Some 250,000 civilians in east Aleppo have been living under siege since July and food rations are expected to run out soon, the United Nations has warned.

Russia picked up 112 votes, while Croatia won 114 and Hungary 144. The three countries were competing for two regional seats.

Human Rights Watch had warned that the return of Russia and also of Saudi Arabia risked weakening the council in its work to hold abusers to account.

Saudi Arabia, which was re-elected with 152 votes, was almost guaranteed to retain its seat as part of a clean slate of four countries vying for four regional seats.

China, which has been criticized for its rights abuses, was also re-elected, while Cuba and Egypt, also cited for their dubious rights records at home, won seats as well.

Croatia, Iraq and Rwanda were elected for the first time.

The other elected members were Brazil, Britain, Japan, South Africa, Tunisia and the United States.