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UN votes to suspend Russia from Human Rights Council over war in Ukraine

‘War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights,’ Ukraine said

Holly Bancroft
Thursday 07 April 2022 19:46 BST
Ukraine: Actions of Russian troops in Bucha 'not far short of genocide', says Boris Johnson
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The United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council on Thursday, with 93 votes in favour, 24 votes against and 58 abstentions.

“War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights,” Ukraine’s foreign minister said after the vote. “Grateful to all member states which... chose the right side of history.”

Before the vote, Ukraine urged members of the United Nations to kick Russia out of the leading human rights body. Ukraine’s UN ambassador said Russia had committed “horrific human rights violations and abuses that would be equated to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The diplomatic slap-down came as Ukraine’s government told its civilians to evacuate the eastern Donbas region ahead of an expected battle for the region. Residents were told on Thursday that Ukraine would not be “able to do anything to help” if they became trapped by Russian forces.

Video also emerged from near Kyiv which appeared to show Ukrainian soldiers shooting captured Russian troops.

The UN resolution, adopted by the General Assembly, expressed “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.” Russia is only the second country to have its membership removed, following Libya which was kicked out in 2011 over violence perpetrated by soldiers loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

It is thought to be the first time that one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council has lost its membership of an UN organisation.

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss said that Russia was now a “global pariah” after its suspension. The resolution needed a two-thirds majority of votes cast, with abstentions not counting as votes.

China was one of the countries to vote against the measure, along with Iran, Zimbabwe, the Republic of Congo, and Belarus. India, Brazil, Egypt, Qatar, the UAE, and Mexico were among those who abstained.

The number of votes against the move to kick out Russia was significantly higher than other recent UN General Assembly votes. On 24 March, the Assembly voted 140-5, with 38 abstentions, to adopt a resolution blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and urging an immediate ceasefire.

On March 2, a resolution demanding an immediate Russian ceasefire was adopted by the Assembly, with a 141-5 vote split and 35 abstentions.

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations (Getty)

On Thursday, Ukraine’s ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsa, introduced the US-initiated resolution before the 193 members of the General Assembly. “Russia’s actions are beyond the pale,” he said. “Russia is not only committing human rights violations, it is shaking the underpinnings of international peace and security”.

Russia’s deputy ambassador, Gennady Kuzmin, urged members to vote “no” and called the resolution “an attempt by the United States to maintain its dominant position and take control”.

US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield led calls for Russia to be removed from the 47-member human rights council in the wake of the atrocities in Bucha.

She had said on Monday: “We believe that members of the Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, and we believe that Russia needs to be held accountable. Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce.”

Images from the Ukrainian town of Bucha have shocked the world, with UK prime minister Boris Johnson describing the Russian force’s actions as not “far short of genocide”.

Reports have emerged of civilians being found shot at close range, some with their hands tied behind their backs.

A woman walks past destroyed houses on the street in Bucha (EPA)

Ukraine’s authorities asked civilians in eastern Donbas to evacuate on Thursday as the military braced for a fierce battle in the region.

The country’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said that if people did not flee then they would “come under fire”. She added that Ukraine would not be “able to do anything to help” if civilians became trapped by advancing Russian forces.

In an address on Wednesday night, president Zelensky warned that the Russians were preparing a new offensive in the east. “We will fight and we will not retreat,” he said. “This is our land. This is our future and we won’t give them up.”

Ukraine hopes to evacuate people along 10 humanitarian corridors, Ms Vereshchuk said. She added that nearly 4,892 people had escaped on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, outside a village to the west of the capital Kyiv, footage posted online appeared to show a group of Ukrainian soldiers killing captured Russian troops.

The video, which was verified by The New York Times, appeared to capture a man talking about a Russian soldier, who was apparently wounded with a jacket pulled over his head.

“He’s still alive. Film these marauders. Look, he’s still alive. He’s gasping”, the man says before shooting him twice. The Russian soldier keeps moving and the man then shoots him again.

At least three other apparent Russian soldiers, including one with his hands tied behind his back, can be seen dead near the victim.

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