The UN chief noted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unleashed “the most massive violations of human rights”

Body of a woman who died at the hands of Russian soldiers in Bucha (Reuters) (ZOHRA BENSEMRA /)

The large-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia has triggered “the most massive violations of human rights” in today’s world, the United Nations chief declared Monday, as the war entered its second year with no end in sight and tens of thousands dead.

The Russian invasion”has triggered widespread death, destruction and displacement”, said the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in a speech before the UN-backed Human Rights Council in Geneva.

After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital in the first weeks of the invasion and suffering a series of humiliating setbacks in the fall, Russia has stabilized the front and is concentrating its efforts on capturing four provinces that Moscow illegally annexed in September: Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. Ukraine, for its part, hopes to use tanks and other new weapons promised by the West to launch new counteroffensives and retake more occupied territory.

Guterres said that “attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure have caused many casualties and terrible suffering”.

Intense fighting over territory in eastern Ukraine came to the fore on Sunday at a Ukrainian field hospital treating the wounded in the intense battle for the devastated city of Bakhmut. A constant stream of battered and exhausted soldiers arrived on stretchers.

The body of a civilian who died in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region (via Reuters)
The body of a civilian who died in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region (via Reuters) (RFE/RL/SERHII NUZHNENKO/)

Guterres’ remarks came as the Ukrainian military claimed that Russia had launched explosive drone strikes in various regions of the country that lasted from late Sunday to Monday morning, killing two.

Guterres cited cases of sexual violence, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and violations of the rights of prisoners of war. documented by the UN human rights office.

He denounced how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is now 75 years old, has been “too often misused and abused”. “It is exploited for political gain and often ignored by the same people,” Guterres said. “Some governments erode it. Others use a wrecking ball.”

This is a time to stand on the right side of history.”, he told the Council, the UN’s highest human rights body. Russia withdrew from its post last year amid increased international pressure over the war in Ukraine.

However, the Russian authorities have given little sign of reconsidering their attack on their neighbor. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday: “Now we see no conditions for a peaceful agreement.”

Exhumation of bodies of civilians in Bucha (Reuters / file)
Exhumation of bodies of civilians in Bucha (Reuters / file) (VALENTYN OGIRENKO /)

War crimes in Ukraine

About 150 senior leaders, including the heads of diplomacy from France, Iran and China, will participate in the HRC meetings until Thursday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak via video link on Monday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov is expected to speak on Thursday. Despite the calls from the NGOs, it is not certain that the diplomats will leave the room when the Russian official speaks, as they did last year when the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, participated by videoconference as a boycott.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine will be at the center of the debates. At the end of the session there will be a vote to continue the work of the researchers of the body on the former Soviet republic, which will present its first report on March 20, after already mentioning possible war crimes in September.

The Ukrainian ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko calls for a “reinforcement” of the resolution, so that the mandate of the investigators is defined. But it is not guaranteed that the final text will reflect kyiv’s will, due to the possible blockade by other countries.

“We are going to have to be very dynamic and very active so that the other country resolutions are approved and prevent a China-Russia-Iran-Venezuela-Cuba axis from building a wall against resolutions,” a European diplomat told AFP.

In Iranafter the repression of the demonstrations triggered by the death in detention of the young Mahsa Amini, the mandate of the country’s rapporteur is at stake.

“The priority is that the mandate be prolonged. But the second priority is that the text reflects the terrible deterioration of the situation that has occurred in recent months since the assassination of Mahsa Amini,” said a Western diplomat.

(With information from AP and AFP)

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