The U.N. high commissioner for human rights on Wednesday called Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from Ukraine and stop the war that she said had caused immeasurable suffering and grief for millions of people.
In a dramatic rendering of conditions in Ukraine to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet described the living nightmare Ukrainians have endured for more than a month and said the war must end.
She said at least 1,189 civilians had been killed and 1,900 injured. She said relentless bombing raids and the persistent use of explosive weapons by Russian military forces had caused massive destruction and damage to homes, infrastructure, hospitals and schools. She noted cities such as Mariupol had been nearly razed, while others had been mercilessly pummeled and no longer existed.
Bachelet said her office had credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas at least two dozen times. She said her office also was investigating allegations that Ukrainian forces have used such weapons.
“Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes,” she said. “The massive destruction of civilian objects and the high number of civilian casualties strongly indicate that the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution have not been sufficiently adhered to.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko, condemned Russia’s unprovoked aggression against her country. She called Russia’s actions against a sovereign state an attack against the norms of the world’s rules-based order.
‘Flagrant violation’ of charter
“This step by the country occupying a seat in the U.N. Security Council and in the Human Rights Council has become a flagrant violation of the U.N. charter and fundamental principles of international law, which will have long-lasting implications for the future of the world order and humanity,” she said.
Yaroslav Eremin, first secretary at the Russian Mission in Geneva, dismissed the conclusions of multiple investigative bodies that have found Russia guilty of widespread violations and abuse.
He listed a litany of alleged crimes committed by Ukrainian soldiers. He said these included preventing civilians in Mariupol from seeking safety in Russia, using civilians as human shields, and blowing up a factory and blaming it on Russia. Speaking through an interpreter, he accused the Ukrainian military of torturing Russian prisoners of war and innocent civilians.
“All these atrocities against civilians were carried out with the use of weaponry supplied by the Western countries,” he said. “We urge the high commissioner and OHCHR [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] to give a due assessment of these facts.”
Nearly 50 countries that participated in the interactive discussion on Ukraine did not buy into Russia’s viewpoint. One by one they stood up and demanded that Russia stop what they called an illegal war.