US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has told the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that Russian “crimes” in Ukraine are “mounting by the hour”, with attacks hitting hospitals, schools and residential buildings.
Moscow faced increasing isolation on Tuesday as President Vladimir Putin showed no sign of stopping an invasion of Ukraine, where fierce fighting and Russian bombardment have killed dozens and sparked a refugee crisis.
Blinken, addressing the Council in Geneva on Tuesday, said that the forum’s urgent debate on Ukraine scheduled for Thursday, where a resolution brought by Kyiv and allies would set up an international probe into violations, is an “important step toward ensuring documentation and accountability”.
“We must send a resolute and unified message that President [Vladimir] Putin should unconditionally stop this,” he said.
Blinken also said that China “continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang” against the mostly Muslim Uyghurs, and called for UN human rights boss Michelle Bachelet to release her office’s report with findings on the situation.
Western envoys walkout
Earlier on Tuesday, more than 100 diplomats from some 40 Western countries and allies including Japan walked out of a speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the forum in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The boycott by envoys from the European Union, the United States, United Kingdom and others left only a few diplomats in the room, including Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, who is a former deputy to Lavrov. Envoys from Syria, China and Venezuela were among the delegations that stayed.
Lavrov was addressing the UNHCR remotely, after cancelling his visit due to what the Russian mission said on Monday were EU states blocking his flight path.
Neutral Switzerland also imposed financial sanctions on Lavrov on Monday, a measure of the international revulsion about an invasion Russia describes as a “special military operation” aimed at dislodging “neo-Nazis” ruling Ukraine.
In his speech, Lavrov accused the EU of engaging in a “Russophobic frenzy” by supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine during Moscow’s military campaign that began last Thursday.
A Russian armoured column bore down on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Tuesday and invasion forces fired rocket barrages into the centre of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, on the sixth day of Russia’s assault on its neighbour.
‘Show of support’
Among the diplomats who walked out, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly and Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod joined Ukraine’s ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko behind a large Ukrainian blue and yellow flag.
“It is a remarkable show of support for Ukrainians who are fighting for their independence,” Filipenko told reporters.
Filipenko said there had been “massive destruction to civilian infrastructure” in Kharkiv, adding, “The maternity wards are being attacked, civilian residential buildings are being bombed.”
Russia denies targeting any civilian sites.
Canada’s Joly said, “Minister Lavrov was giving his version, which is false, about what is happening in Ukraine and so that’s why we wanted to show a very strong stance together.”
Later on Tuesday, Canada will petition the International Criminal Court over what Joly said were Russia’s “crimes against humanity and war crimes”.
She was referring to the Hague-based court where the office of the ICC prosecutor on Monday said it would seek court approval to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine. read more
The US envoy to the Human Rights Council, Michele Taylor, said in a statement: “This Russian war of aggression will have profound implications for human rights in Ukraine and Russia, and the leaders of Russia will be held accountable.”