UN Rights Council votes for urgent debate on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

People take shelter in basement as Russia continues shelling in Ukraine. [Photo: Twitter/Berkhaiz Bhat]

Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday voted to hold an urgent debate about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, further isolating Moscow which had resisted Kyiv’s attempt to shine a light on abuses committed in the war, AFP reported.

As per the report, Russia’s attack on Ukraine dominated the start of the UN body’s main annual session in the Swiss city of Geneva, with countries rallying around Kyiv’s demand to put Russia’s actions in the spotlight.

Ukraine’s ambassador in Geneva Yevheniia Filipenko warned that Russia’s invasion, which has killed dozens of civilians and forced hundreds of thousands to flee, “was an attack not only on Ukraine.”

“It was an attack on every UN member state, on the United Nations and on the principles that this organisation was created to defend” the report quoted her as having said.

Russia, which has become an international pariah as its forces do battle on the streets of Ukraine’s cities, rejected the call for a debate and demanded the issue be put to a vote.

But a full 29 of the council’s 47 members backed Kyiv’s request, while only five voted no, including Russia itself and China. Thirteen countries, mostly African, abstained from voting.

US Ambassador Sheba Crocker hailed the result as proof that “Russia is totally isolated at the council.”

“The international community is united in condemning Russia’s egregious action,” she said in a statement, the report said.

As per the report, the debate on Ukraine is to take place on Thursday, after the initial high-level part of the council’s five-week session, when ministers and top officials from over 140 countries will speak.

On Monday, Ukraine presented a draft resolution to be discussed during the debate, calling for a high-level investigation into all alleged violations committed in the conflict, dating back to 2014 when the Kremlin annexed Crimea and supported a separatist movement in Ukraine’s east.

In her opening statement Monday, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet pointed out that “throughout history, there have been moments of profound gravity, that cut the course of events between a ‘before’ and a very different, more harmful, ‘after’.” “We are at such a tipping point,” she warned.

She said her office had tallied more than 100 civilians, including seven children, killed in just the five days since the invasion began, warning the true death count was surely far higher.

Filipenko said Ukraine’s health ministry had registered 350 deaths, including 16 children, since Thursday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who along with President Vladimir Putin has been slapped with EU sanctions over the invasion, is expected to travel to Switzerland to address the rights council on Tuesday morning, the AFP report said.

He is also expected to address the Conference on Disarmament and to host a press conference Tuesday, but his participation has been complicated by the fact that the European Union, which borders Switzerland, has closed its airspace to Russian flights.

The UN told news agency AFP that Guterres himself spoke Sunday “with relevant Russian and European authorities to help solve the problem.”

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