G7 calls for Russia to be suspended from UN's human rights body

G7 calls for Russia to be suspended from UN’s human rights body over ‘heinous acts and atrocities’ in Ukraine

  • The UN General Assembly votes later Thursday on suspending Russia
  • The call came from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US
  • Ukrainian officials are currently gathering evidence of potential war crimes
  • There are signs Moscow’s troops killed people indiscriminately in Bucha and other towns, drawing widespread condemnation and fresh sanctions

The G7 today called for Russia to be suspended from the United Nation’s human rights body over its ‘heinous acts and atrocities’ in Ukraine.

The UN General Assembly votes later Thursday on suspending Russia from the UN Human Rights Council following allegations that Russian troops systematically executed civilians in Bucha, a town north-west of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv. 

‘We are convinced that now is the time to suspend Russian membership of the Human Rights Council,’ G7 foreign ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States said in a statement.

Ukrainian officials are currently gathering evidence from Bucha and other cities, amid signs Moscow’s troops killed people indiscriminately before retreating.

Ukrainian authorities said the bodies of least 410 civilians were found in towns around Kyiv, victims of what President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said was a Russian campaign of murder, rape, dismemberment and torture.

Some victims had apparently been shot at close range and some were found with their hands bound.

The G7 today called for Russia to be suspended from the United Nation’s human rights body (pictured meeting in March) over its ‘heinous acts and atrocities’ in Ukraine

Zelensky has also previously called for Russia to be expelled from the UN Security Council ‘so it cannot block decisions about its own aggression, its own war.’

The G7 foreign ministers, who have been meeting on the sidelines of a NATO gathering in Brussels this week, said those responsible for ‘heinous acts and atrocities, including any attacks targeting civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure’ would be held accountable and prosecuted.

‘We welcome and support the ongoing work to investigate and gather evidence of these and other potential war crimes and crimes against humanity,’ they said.

The ministers also called for Russia to suspend its offensive in Ukraine immediately and warned against the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

‘We underline our unwavering support for Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders and express our readiness to assist further, including with military equipment and financial means,’ they said.

More than 11 million people have been displaced since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Scenes of carnage that Ukrainian officials have accused retreating Russian troops of leaving behind in towns including Bucha have sparked outrage and led to a wave of fresh sanctions against Moscow.

Journalists over the weekend found corpses in civilian clothes, some with their hands bound, in the town of Bucha outside Ukraine’s capital after Kyiv’s forces retook it from Russia’s army.

The Kremlin has denied Russian forces killed civilians, and alleged that the images of dead bodies in Bucha were ‘fakes.’

Pictured: Bodies of civilians in plastic bags lay in a mass grave in Bucha city, which was the recaptured by the Ukrainian army, Kyiv area, April 4 2022

Workers examine the documentation of civilian bodies prior to loading them onto a truck in the town of Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, after the Ukrainian army secured the area following the withdrawal of the Russian army from the Kyiv region, April 6

Pictured: The body of a woman, who according to residents was killed by Russian army soldiers, lies on the street, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Bucha, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 2. She was later revealed to have been a beauty blogger, identified by her unique nails

Bucha victim who dreamed of becoming a make-up blogger is identified by her unique manicure 

The heartbreaking story behind one of the war’s saddest and most iconic images has been uncovered, as Ukrainian authorities continue to count the dead in Bucha.

The photograph in question showed the manicured hand of a woman killed during Russia’s brutal occupation of the town north-west of Kyiv.

Her body was found lying on the side of the road next to her bicycle, her arm outstretched to her side. Her red and pink nails stood out amidst the dirt.

After the photo was shared on social media, and as the tragic events inside the town at the hands of the Russian occupiers were being pieced together, the woman’s unique manicure was recognised by a makeup artist in nearby Gostomel.

The hand in the gut-wrenching picture, it turns out, belonged to 52-year-old Iryna Filkina – an aspiring makeup artist and blogger who posted tutorials to her social media pages.

Anastasiia Subacheva told the New York Times that she instantly recognised Ms Filkina’s hands and distinctive nails from her videos, as they would often be shown applying makeup, lipstick and foundation.

Ms. Subacheva told the newspaper in a telephone call that her heart broke when she saw the photograph. She said that she knew many women from Bucha as she would often travel to the town to do the makeup for many women there.

‘When I saw it, I felt physically like my heart started to break,’ she told the Times. 

She said that Ms. Filkina – a heating station operator – had contacted her in February enquiring about makeup classes. She told Ms. Subacheva that her dream was to become a popular artists and to increase her following on Instagram.

Iryna Filkina

Meanwhile on Thursday, Ukraine urged its residents in the east of the country Thursday to take their ‘last chance’ to flee mounting Russian attacks, after devastation around the capital Kyiv shocked the world.

Six weeks after they invaded, Russian troops have withdrawn from Kyiv and Ukraine’s north and are focusing on the country’s southeast, where desperate attempts are under way to evacuate civilians.

The retreat from Kyiv revealed scenes of carnage, including in the town of Bucha, that Ukraine said were evidence of Russian war crimes, and which triggered a fresh wave of Western sanctions against Moscow.

Mr Zelensky has accused Russia of interfering with an international investigation into possible war crimes by removing bodies and trying to hide other evidence in Bucha, north west of Kyiv.

‘We have information that the Russian troops have changed tactics and are trying to remove the dead people, the dead Ukrainians, from the streets and cellars of territory they occupied,’ he said during his latest video address. 

‘This is only an attempt to hide the evidence and nothing more.’

Switching from Ukrainian to Russian, Mr Zelensky urged ordinary Russians ‘to somehow confront the Russian repressive machine’ instead of being ‘equated with the Nazis for the rest of your life’.

He called on Russians to demand an end to the war ‘if you have even a little shame about what the Russian military is doing in Ukraine’. 

Since Bucha, a chorus has resounded at the highest levels of Western political power calling for accountability, prosecution and punishment for war crimes in Ukraine.

On Monday, Zelensky denounced the killings as ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes,’ and U.S. President Joe Biden said Putin was ‘a war criminal’ who should be brought to trial.

But the path to holding the Russian president and other top leaders criminally responsible is long and complex, international lawyers caution.

‘Certainly, the discovery of bodies which bear signs of executions – such as gunshot wounds to the head – presents strong evidence of war crimes,’ said Clint Williamson, who served as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues from 2006 to 2009.

‘When victims are found with their hands bound, with blindfolds and bearing signs of torture or sexual assault, an even more compelling case is made. 

‘There are no circumstances under which these actions are permitted, whether the victims are civilians or military personnel who had been taken prisoner.’  

Meanwhile, a US defence official said on Wednesday that Russia had pulled all of its estimated 24,000 or more troops from the Kyiv and Chernihiv areas in the north, sending them into Belarus or Russia to resupply and reorganise. 

A man pushes his bike through debris and destroyed Russian military vehicles on a street on April 6 in Bucha, Ukraine

Residents look at destroyed Russian military machinery on the street, in Bucha, the town which was retaken by the Ukrainian army, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6

A burned car next to destroyed houses, in Bucha, the town which was retaken by the Ukrainian army, northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, April 6

They are expected to return to fight in the east of the country, where Russia has said it intends to focus its military efforts in a new phase of the invasion.

Growing numbers of Vladimir Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, have been reported moving into the Donbas.

‘Later, people will come under fire,’ Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in urging civilians to evacuate from the mostly Russian-speaking industrial region, ‘and we won’t be able to do anything to help them’.

Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas since 2014. Ahead of its February 24 invasion, Moscow recognised the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as independent states.

Another Western official said it may take Russia’s battle-damaged forces as much as a month to regroup for a major push on eastern Ukraine.

In his nightly address on Wednesday, Zelensky also warned Russia’s military is gearing up for a new offensive in the east. 

Ukraine too was preparing for battle, he said.  

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