The U.N. General Assembly on Thursday approved a U.S.-initiated resolution to suspend Russia from the world organization’s Human Rights Council amid mounting evidence of atrocities by the Russian military in Ukraine.
The vote was 93-24 with 58 abstentions.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield launched the campaign to suspend Russia from the 47-member Human Rights Council after videos and photos from the Kyiv-area town of Bucha emerged, revealing streets strewn with corpses of civilians after Russian soldiers retreated.
“War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights,” Ukraine Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya tweeted after the vote. “Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant UNGA resolution and chose the right side of history.”
Russia becomes the first permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to have its membership revoked from any U.N. body. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this week also called for Russia’s removal from the Security Council so it can’t use its veto power to “block decisions about its own aggression.”
Russia’s deputy ambassador Gennady Kuzmin denied Russian involvement in the carnage, saying the evidence was merely “staged events and widely circulated fakes.” He dismissed the resolution as an attempt by the United States to “maintain its dominant position and total control.”
►The Commerce Department issued temporary denial orders to prevent Russian airlines Aeroflot, Utair and Azur Air from receiving items from the U.S., including parts to service their aircraft.
►Russians and Belarusians accepted into the 2022 Boston Marathon who live in either country will be banned from competing in the April 18 race, the Boston Athletic Association announced.
►Russia’s Defense Ministry said it struck fuel storage sites around the cities of Mykolaiv and Zaporozhe in the south of Ukraine and Kharkiv and Chuguev in the east overnight using cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea.
►Russia said it made a debt payment in rubles this week, a move that may not be accepted by Russia’s foreign debt holders and could put the country on a path to a historic default.
German intelligence authorities have intercepted Russian military radio traffic discussing atrocities to civilians in the Ukraine city of Bucha, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.
Some of the intercepted radio traffic can apparently be directly linked to dead bodies photographed in the town of 30,000 northwest of Kyiv, the German media outlet Der Spiegel and others reported. Hundreds of bodies were found in Bucha and other Kyiv-area towns when Ukraine re-took them in recent days.
Russia has denied involvement, saying the scenes of carnage were either staged or carried out by Ukraine troops.
Der Spiegel, citing sources familiar with the audio, said it reveals Russian troops spoke of the atrocities as though they were discussing their everyday lives. In one of the intercepted conversations, a soldier apparently told another about recently shooting a person on a bicycle. A photo of a dead body lying next to a bicycle has been shared around the world.
The Washington Post reported that, in two separate communications, Russian soldiers described how they question soldiers as well as civilians and then shoot them, according to an intelligence official familiar with the audio.
The U.S. Senate voted 100-0 Thursday in favor of banning the importation of oil from Russia and ending normal trade relations with the country in response to the atrocities in Ukraine during the monthlong Russian siege. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes, echoing other U.S. and international officials, urging the Senate to pass the bills to hold the Kremlin accountable for his actions.
“Ending normal trade relations hammers home that Putin has made Russia into a full-fledged pariah state,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
The trade suspension will allow the U.S. to enact higher tariffs on Russian imports, while the bill banning Russian oil will codify into law an executive order that President Joe Biden signed. Russian crude oil made up only 3% of the total imported by the U.S. in 2021, but petroleum products from Russia accounted for 20% of the amount imported, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Both the bills have been stuck in the Senate, frustrating lawmakers who have called on the government to ramp up its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some European countries are weighing whether to ban Russian oil imports, at a heavy economic cost: Russia produces about 40% of the natural gas the European Union uses to heat homes and generate electricity, among other necessities, and about 25% of the oil required to fuel its vehicles.
Ukraine issued urgent pleas for more weapons Thursday as the U.S. prepared to resurrect a World War II-era program making it easier to provide the embattled nation with desperately needed firepower to repel the Russian invasion. In Brussels, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lobbied NATO for help: “I came here today to discuss three most important things: weapons, weapons and weapons.”
Congress was trying to resurrect the World War II-era program to facilitate funneling weapons to Ukraine. A bill unanimously approved by the Senate and awaiting House action would temporarily waive requirements related to President Joe Biden’s authority to lend or lease weapons or other supplies to Ukraine’s government.
Former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said the bill “is not only inspiring, but it also marks a new stage in repelling the Russian aggressor.”
President Joe Biden said new economic sanctions imposed Wednesday against Russia, including two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin, “ratchet up the pain” further on Russia following the discovery of atrocities committed by its troops.
“There’s nothing less happening than major war crimes,” Biden said, describing scenes of bodies left in the streets of the Ukrainian town of Bucha including civilians executed with their hands tied behind their backs.
“Responsible nations have to come together to hold these preparators accountable. And together with our allies and our partners, we’re going to keep raising the economic costs and ratchet up the pain for Putin, and further increase Russia’s economic isolation.”
The Biden administration announced sanctions on 21 Kremlin officials and Russian elites in addition to two adult Putin daughters, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, and the wife and daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Other measures include full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank, as well as a ban on U.S. investment in Russia. European allies took similar actions.
– Joey Garrison
Contributing: Associated Press