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Russia Vetoes U.N. Proposal To Call Srebrenica 'Genocide'

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

A grim anniversary this week - 20 years ago, the international community failed to prevent the massacre of Bosnian Muslims who were taking refuge in a U.N. safe zone at Srebrenica. Now U.S. officials say the U.N. has failed again, and that's after Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution today to commemorate the massacre and call it a genocide. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, was a reporter covering the war when Bosnian-Serb forces moved on Srebrenica. At first, she says, she couldn't believe the news of mass executions.

SAMANTHA POWER: No, was all I could say - no.

KELEMEN: She said she had the same reaction when she heard Russia would veto a resolution that described the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys as a crime of genocide.

POWER: Today's vote mattered. It mattered hugely to the families of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. Russia's veto is heartbreaking for those families. And it is a further stain on this council's record.

KELEMEN: Russia's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, accused Power of distorting Russia's position.

VITALY CHURKIN: (Speaking Russian).

KELEMEN: He described the resolution as counterproductive, confrontational and politically motivated. China abstained, as did Venezuela, Angola and Nigeria. British ambassador, Peter Wilson, who drafted it, says the resolution was mean to promote reconciliation in Bosnia, but reconciliation, he adds, must be based on a shared acceptance of the facts. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.