The United States will move to seek a suspension of Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) following evidence of mass killings in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, increasing signs that Russian forces may have committed war crimes in Ukraine, according to what U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday.
Russian troops are accused of killing close to 300 civilians during their occupation of Bucha, as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy posted photos of dead bodies to Telegram on Sunday, calling Russian troops “butchers.”
Ukrainian officials said the bodies of 410 civilians were found in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv that have been recaptured from Russian forces in recent days.
The reports have sparked a wave of outrage and condemnation against Russia. “We believe that the members of the Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, and we believe that Russia needs to be held accountable,” Thomas-Greenfield said at a press conference in Romania’s capital, Bucharest.
She also said, “Russia’s participation on the HRC is a farce. It hurts the credibility of the Council and the UN writ large, and is simply wrong.”
Russia’s foreign ministry on Sunday claimed that its troops were not to blame, alleging that images of dead civilians had been ordered by the U.S. to damage Russia’s reputation.
Russia’s ambassador in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov said, “The U.S. statement is baseless, unfounded and purely emotional bravado that looks good on camera, just how the U.S. likes it.”
A Russian diplomatic mission spokesman relayed that Gatilov also said, “Washington exploits the Ukrainian crisis for its own benefit in an attempt either to exclude or suspend Russian from international organizations, including the HRC here in Geneva.”
Thomas-Greenfield said she would go to the Security Council on Tuesday on her return to New York to “address Russia’s actions firmly and directly.” She said the U.N. General Assembly, which votes to approve the 47 members of the HRC every three years, must now vote to suspend them.”
The UN has never had a permanent member of the security council to have their membership revoked. A spokesperson for the UN said Monday that it would set a “dangerous precedent” to suspend Russian from the UN Human Rights Council.