By Laura Koran
Syria carried out "egregious human rights violations" last year, according to a State Department assessment released on Thursday that also singled out abuses in Russia and the Ukraine.
The 2013 Human Rights Report, based on assessments from America's embassies abroad, reserved its strongest language for the Syrian government, which allegedly gassed its own people last August in an atrocity linked to the ongoing civil war.
"Hundreds were murdered in the dead of night when a disaster occurred at the hands of a dictator, who decided to infect the air of Damascus with poisonous gas," Secretary of State John Kerry said in presenting the report.
"And many more have been, unfortunately, confined to die under a barrage of barrel bombs, scud missiles, artillery and other conventional weapons," he said.
Russia also was featured prominently in the report for cracking down on activists and enactment of a law banning gay "propaganda."
Russia was also called out for alleged abuses related to the Olympics in Sochi where, according to the report, "human rights activists documented evidence of forced labor of migrant workers."
The study said such reports "were widespread and included nonpayment or severely delayed payment of wages, excessively long hours, and withholding of passports and identity documents."
The report also praised protesters in Ukraine for their demonstrations, while calling out that government's former leaders.
"Today we re-affirm our commitment to stand with the many who seek dignity and against the few who deny it," said Kerry, "That's how we live up to our ideals."
Many are struggling to come to grips with the rapid political upheaval that has unfolded there in recent days, after months of protests and last week's bloody clashes between protesters and security forces.
There is broad divide between those who support events in Kiev, where a new government is leaning toward the West, and those who back Russia's continued influence in eastern and southern Ukraine.
LGBT discrimination was a recurring topic in the report.
"From Nigeria to Russia to Iran," said Kerry, "indeed in some 80 countries the world over, LGBT communities face discriminatory laws and practices that attack their basic human dignity and undermine their safety."
In the report and in his statements to the media, Kerry also called out the Ugandan government and President Yoweri Museveni, for a law signed this week to criminalize homosexuality.
"These laws contribute to a global trend of rising violence and discrimination against LGBT persons and their supporters," said Kerry.