UN ousts Russia from Human Rights Council; Ukraine braces for new attacks – Reuters News in France and abroad

BUCHA, Ukraine — Outraged by the gruesome images emerging after nearly seven weeks of war, the United Nations General Assembly has suspended Russia from its Human Rights Council, a rarely used sanction that comes as Western powers increase military aid to repel a Russian assault on eastern Ukraine. provinces.

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday voted 93 to 24, with 58 abstentions, in favor of a resolution suspending Russia out of “grave concern” over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights”. the man “. It was only the second suspension in the history of the 47-member council, following Libya’s ousting in 2011.

Ukraine pleads for urgent arms transfers as Russia turns east after failing to seize the capital, Kyiv. The airstrikes continued on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, with Russia appearing undeterred as its pariah status deepened with a fresh round of sanctions and diplomats expelled.

NATO members agreed to “further strengthen and maintain their support for Ukraine”, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers. Declining to elaborate, Stoltenberg said NATO was providing both Soviet-era and modern systems for a “long haul” in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after the meeting that “we are reviewing day by day what we think they need most, to include new systems that have not been delivered to date.” .

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Ukrainian officials welcomed the support, but expressed concern that the aid will be too little, too late. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba slammed Western leaders for toughening sanctions ‘only after seeing footage of Bucha’, the Kyiv suburb where the bodies of civilians were scattered in the streets or thrown into mass graves – in some cases showing signs of torture – after Russian troops retreated.

“How many children, how many women, how many men must die – innocent lives must be lost? asked Kuleba.

Several UN member countries have cited the killings as the reason for their vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, called for the expulsion earlier this week, saying Russia’s continued participation was a “farce”.

Russian diplomats called the vote “human rights colonialism” and a US coup at the expense of small nations. Without providing evidence, Russia blamed the atrocities on Ukrainian troops.

On the ground, however, there was no ambiguity about the civilian toll of the Russian invasion.

“It was hell on earth,” said Oleg Yevtushenko, 55, a resident of a building in Bucha that soldiers took over as their base.

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Traffic stretched for miles around Bucha on Thursday as thousands of displaced families tried to return home, terrified of what they might find. The passengers looked anxious. On several occasions, traffic cops fired into the air to force motorists to give way.

Some families said they wanted to visit their homes or their pets. Others said they were going to see elderly relatives who had been unwilling or unable to flee with them.

In town, investigators scoured the streets for evidence of war crimes. Reporters saw at least six bodies in the back of a van driven by volunteers. Residents pointed to shallow graves containing the bodies of civilians. A 6-year-old child placed a small carton of juice at the foot of his mother’s tombstone.

Bucha was included in an Amnesty International report that contains testimonies from people in Ukraine who say they saw Russian forces executing civilians near kyiv in what the non-profit human rights organization called “apparent war crimes” that must be investigated.

The testimonies, collected from villages and towns near kyiv, including Bucha, Vorzel, Hostomel and Bohdanivka, reveal “that unarmed civilians in Ukraine are being killed in their homes and streets in acts of unspeakable cruelty and ‘shocking brutality,’ Agnès Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, wrote in the report. “These deaths must be fully investigated and those responsible must be prosecuted, including up the chain of command. »

In one particularly shocking account, a woman told Amnesty investigators that two Russian soldiers killed her husband and “repeatedly raped her at gunpoint while her young son hid in a boiler room in proximity”. The woman and her son were then able to escape from their village east of Kyiv, Amnesty said.

Other witnesses said they saw or heard Russian armed forces firing at unarmed civilians – in one case as the person was looking over a fence, in another because they had no cigarettes .

To support these accounts, the German foreign intelligence service claims to have intercepted radio communications in which Russian soldiers discuss carrying out indiscriminate killings in Ukraine. In two separate communications, soldiers described how they interrogate Ukrainian troops as well as civilians and then shoot them, according to an intelligence official familiar with the findings who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

The findings, first reported by German magazine Der Spiegel and confirmed Thursday by three people briefed on the information, further undermine Russia’s denials of their involvement in the killings. Russia has claimed that atrocities are only perpetrated after its soldiers have left occupied areas or scenes of civilian massacres are “staged”.

Germany has satellite images that indicate Russian involvement in the killing of civilians in Bucha, the intelligence official said, but radio transmissions have not been linked to that location.

Ukrainian officials on Thursday reported an escalation in Russian attacks on towns and villages in eastern Ukraine, where thousands of people are fleeing amid warnings of an impending offensive. Russian troops appeared to have moved their operations to this part of Ukraine after withdrawing from areas around kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Kharkiv region governor Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram that artillery and mortar fire hit homes and infrastructure and at least 15,000 people fled towns in the region. He called on residents to leave two areas close to the territory under the control of pro-Russian separatists.

Three trains intended to transport Ukrainians to safety were blocked by a Russian airstrike on a railway viaduct. Officials said the attack happened on Thursday near Barvinkove railway station – the only Ukrainian-controlled exit from Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Lyman towns in Donetsk province. There was no immediate information about the dead and injured, Alexander Kamyshin, chairman of the board of state railway company Ukrzaliznytsia, wrote on Telegram.

Local leaders in Donetsk and Lugansk said evacuations were taking place – but under worsening conditions. “I insist once again, please evacuate as long as there are trains available,” pleaded Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, in a Telegram message. “It is becoming more and more difficult to save civilian lives. »

Ukrainian military officials said the mass destruction of towns and villages appeared to be a deliberate strategy as Russia sought to control Donetsk and Luhansk, which make up the region in eastern Ukraine known as Donbass.

Ukrainian and Russian officials have made conflicting statements about the status of Mariupol, the port city in southeastern Ukraine that has been under siege for weeks.

Alexei Arestovitch, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told a press briefing that while Russia has “renewed its offensive against Mariupol”, Ukrainian forces are “holding their ground, however difficult it is for them there”. But Eduard Basurin, spokesman for the self-proclaimed pro-Moscow Donetsk People’s Republic, said Ukrainian forces had been driven out of the city center. He said the fighting there was mostly over but pockets of resistance remained.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States was providing intelligence to Ukraine to help it fight Russia in the Donbass as Moscow is concentrating its forces there.

The European Union, meanwhile, has approved a plan to phase out imports of Russian coal. The coal ban, which will come into full effect in mid-August, is the fifth set of sanctions against Russia to be adopted by the EU Although Ukrainian leaders have urged Western allies to do more to stem the flow money to Russia, Thursday’s vote only applies to coal and does not ban other Russian energy imports such as natural gas and oil.

In an unusually frank acknowledgment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had suffered “significant troop losses” in its battles in Ukraine, despite past proclamations of invasion success. “It’s a huge tragedy for us,” he told Sky News.

Although Moscow has not detailed its losses, a senior NATO military official estimated last month that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops had been killed in the first four weeks of fighting.

Also on Thursday, Russian newspaper editor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov was attacked on a train, sprayed with a mixture of paint and acetone that left his eyes burning, it said. His diary.

The attack came just days after Muratov was forced to suspend operations of Novaya Gazeta after receiving a second warning from Russian authorities.

The editor, who was on a train from Moscow to Samara, said the attacker shouted: “Muratov, here’s one for our boys!” as he tossed the liquid.

The 60-year-old doyen of Russian journalism spent decades running Novaya Gazeta, which became known for its pioneering investigative coverage. In recent weeks, new punitive censorship laws in Russia have prompted many journalists to flee the country for fear of being arrested for reporting basic facts about the invasion of Ukraine.

Loveluck reported from Bucha, Ukraine. DeYoung, Firozi and Allam reported from Washington. Dalton Bennett in Dnipro, Ukraine; Max Bearak in Bucha; David L. Stern in Mukachevo, Ukraine; Isaac Stanley-Becker in Berlin; Ellen Francis and Annabelle Timsit in London; Annabelle Chapman in Warsaw; and Karoun Demirjian, Meryl Kornfield and Christine Armario in Washington contributed to this report.

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UN ousts Russia from Human Rights Council; Ukraine braces for new attacks – Reuters News in France and abroad