The General Assembly of the United Nations has just voted to suspend Russia from its Human Rights Council during a session in New York.
It follows allegations of war crimes by Kremlin troops in Ukraine. It was a rare, if not unprecedented rebuke against one of the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council.
Before votes were cast, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya accused Russia of “horrific” abuses – raising the issue of alleged civilian killings in the city of Bucha, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the vote “a historic moment,” telling the assembly: “We have collectively sent a strong message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored” and that Russia must be held accountable “for this unprovoked, unjust, unconscionable war.”
Russia’s own representative Gennady Kuzmin condemned the vote, and other nations including North Korea and Syria rallied behind him.
Thomas-Greenfield launched the campaign to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council in the wake of videos and photos showing streets in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, strewn with the bodies of civilians after Russian soldiers retreated. The deaths have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions on Russia, which has vehemently denied its troops were responsible.
U.S. President Joe Biden said the vote demonstrated how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war “has made Russia an international pariah.” He pledged to continue working with other nations to gather evidence to hold Russia accountable, increase the pressure on its economy and isolate it on the international stage.
The vote on the U.S.-initiated resolution suspending Russia was 93-24 with 58 abstentions, significantly lower than on two resolutions the assembly adopted last month demanding an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, withdrawal of all Russian troops and protection for civilians. Both of those resolutions were approved by at least 140 nations.
Russia’s deputy ambassador, Gennady Kuzmin, said after the vote that Russia had already withdrawn from the council before the assembly took action, apparently in expectation of the result. By withdrawing, council spokesman Rolando Gomez said Russia avoided being deprived of observer status at the rights body.
The General Assembly voted 140-5 with 38 abstentions on March 24 on a resolution blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and urging an immediate cease-fire and protection for millions of civilians and the homes, schools and hospitals critical to their survival.
The vote was almost exactly the same as for a March 2 resolution that the assembly adopted demanding an immediate Russian cease-fire, withdrawal of all its forces and protection for all civilians. That vote was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.
Both of those votes were not legally binding but did have clout as a reflection of global opinion.
Thursday’s vote and Russia’s withdrawal, however, have a direct impact on Moscow’s voice in a human rights body that has increasingly become a venue for a global stand-off between Western democracies and autocratic countries. China will lose a key ally there.
China abstained in both assembly votes last month but voted against suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council.
Source: AP News