Russian forces have been accused of mass atrocities against civilians in Ukraine, prompting the UN to suspend Russia from its Human Rights Council on Thursday. After an American-led campaign, more than 90 countries voted to expel Moscow from the UN Security Council, while 24 countries, including Russia’s closest allies China, Syria, Belarus, and Zimbabwe, voted against the measure. As many as 60 countries, including India, which continues to purchase Russian weapons, abstained from the resolution.
The 47-member council needed a two-thirds majority of voting members, excluding abstentions, to suspend Russia. The council rarely suspends its members. Protests against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime led to the suspension of Libya in 2011. Several reports of human rights abuses and allegations of systematic executions by Russian troops in Bucha, a town north-west of Kyiv, prompted the vote. President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24. In spite of Russia’s reluctance to rejoin the council, it vowed to continue defending its interests.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, apologized in an interview with Sky News in the United Kingdom. ‘Also, we’ll continue to fight for our rights using all legal means possible.’ Russia’s alleged human rights abuses in Bucha and other Ukrainian towns are cited prominently in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly’s 193 members, who express “grave concern.” Voting yes or abstaining would be seen as an “unfriendly gesture” by Russia, which could harm bilateral relations. The country denies any involvement in the killing of civilians. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia claimed on Tuesday that “not a single civilian suffered from any kind of violence” while Bucha was under Russian control.
Before the General Assembly’s 193 members, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya introduced the U.S.-initiated resolution. In his opinion, Russia’s actions are “beyond the pale.” The foundations of international peace and security are being shaken by Russia, and not just its human rights abuses. A total of 24 countries voted no, including China, whose UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, stated: “We oppose double standards and the exertion of pressure on other countries in the name of human rights.”
It had previously been urged to vote to remove Russia by G7 nations and Ukraine. As the G7 foreign ministers stated in a joint statement: ‘We are convinced that it is time to suspend Russian membership in the Human Rights Council,” the time has come to remove Russia from the council. Ukrainian officials are currently gathering evidence from Bucha and other cities, based on indications that Moscow’s troops indiscriminately killed people before fleeing the area. The bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in the vicinity of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, as a result of a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment, and torture, according to Ukrainian authorities. It appears that a number of the victims were shot at close range, and a few had their hands bound when they were discovered.
There will be no impunity for those responsible for “heinous acts and atrocities,” including attacks on civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Brussels this week said. Additionally, the ministers warned against the use of CBRN weapons and demanded that Russia immediately halt its offensive in Ukraine.
Russia’s deputy ambassador Gennady Kuzmin, urged members to vote ‘no,’ with the Kremlin saying that an abstention or not voting would be considered an unfriendly act and would harm bilateral relations. As reported by the Associated Press, Russia claimed in a so-called “non-paper” that the attempt to kick it out of the Human Rights Council is political and supported by countries looking to maintain their global dominance and power. After seeing videos and photos of Bucha’s streets littered with the corpses of civilians, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called for Russia to be removed from the Human Rights Council’s 47-member roster. A global outcry has prompted calls for Russia to face tougher sanctions, which the Russian government has vehemently denied.