UN Rights Body Sets Up Investigation Into Possible Russian War Crimes in Ukraine

'The most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades' have occurred in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukraine's deputy foreign minister told the Human Rights Council

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Protestors outside the United Nations building in Geneva on Thursday.
Protestors outside the United Nations building in Geneva on Thursday.Credit: Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Reuters
Reuters

The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution on Thursday to set up an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian troops in the Kyiv area and beyond, a move that Russia said amounted to political score-settling.

Members passed by an overwhelming majority (33 for, 2 against) a resolution to order a Commission of Inquiry to investigate events in the regions around Kyiv and other areas such as Sumy that were temporarily held by Russian troops.

"The areas … which have been under Russian occupation in late February and March have experienced the most gruesome human rights violations on the European continent in decades," Ukraine's First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Emine Dzhaparova, told the Council.

As she spoke by video link, she held up a drawing that she said was made by an 11-year-old boy who was raped in front of his mother. "He actually lost the ability to speak after and the only way he communicates is with black lines," she said.

Reuters was unable to verify Dzhaparova's account of what happened to the boy. A spokesperson for Russia's diplomatic mission did not respond to a request for comment on her account.

Russia, which has denied carrying out abuses in what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine, left its seat at the Geneva-based Council empty in protest.

"Instead of discussing the true causes that led to the crisis in this country and looking for ways to resolve them, the 'collective West' is organizing another political rout to demonize Russia," Moscow's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said in an emailed statement before the vote.

In a shift from its former position of abstaining on Ukraine, China voted against the decision alongside Eritrea.

"We have noted that in recent years the politicization and confrontation at the [Council]…has been on the rise which has severely impacted the credibility, impartiality and the solidarity," said ambassador Chen Xu.

Russia says it went into Ukraine on February 24 to disarm the country and rid it of what the Kremlin calls anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

Russia was suspended from the 47-member Council last month over allegations of violations in Ukraine, although Moscow says it quit.

At the same session on Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said there were many examples of possible war crimes since the Russian invasion, saying that 1,000 bodies had been recovered so far in the Kyiv region.

"The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking," she said.

The Kremlin has said images of dead bodies on the streets of towns such as Bucha were staged to discredit its forces.

The resolution also requests Bachelet to provide an update at the Council's June session on violations in the Russian-besieged port city of Mariupol. Protesters outside the building formed a 'SAVE MARIUPOL' sign in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag. 

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