Canada has joined its allies calling for Russia to be suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over the war in Ukraine.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said on Tuesday that Russia should not sit on the council due to “war crimes” it’s reportedly committed since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“With ongoing reports of heinous acts of violence and war crimes at the hands of Russian forces, Russia’s utter disregard for human rights could not be any clearer,” Joly said on Twitter.
“Russia has no place on the UNHRC.”
The United States is leading the push to suspend Russia from the UNHRC following the apparent discovery of murdered civilians in Kyiv’s suburbs over the weekend.
Ukrainian forces found bodies scattered in the streets of Bucha, a suburb of Kviv. Some were found with evidence indicating they’d been killed at close range.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of committing “the most terrible war crimes” since the Second World War when he addressed the UN Security Council on Tuesday. Russia has rejected the accusations.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, aims to have the General Assembly vote on its request next week. A two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member assembly in New York can suspend a state for persistently committing gross and systematic violations of human rights.
“Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce,” Thomas-Greenfield said on a recent visit to Romania.
“And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to remove them.”
Since launching its invasion on Feb. 24, Russia has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine. Kyiv has claimed otherwise, citing the discoveries in Bucha as the latest example.
The country’s foreign minister said on Monday that Bucha is likely the tip of the iceberg, and the head of the NATO military alliance feared the same as stated on Tuesday.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters ahead of a two-day NATO foreign ministers meeting Russia is responsible for the atrocities in Kyiv’s suburbs.
“I’m afraid that we’ll see more — more examples of killings of civilians, more examples of atrocities and more examples of targeted killings of civilians,” he said.
“I think we haven’t seen everything that has taken place because Russia still controls most of these territories. But when and if they withdraw their troops, and Ukraine troops take over, I’m afraid they’ll see more mass graves, more atrocities and more examples of war crimes.”
Stoltenberg added NATO allies are providing support to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to help in war crimes probes.
NATO expects Russia to launch a major offensive in the eastern Donbas region in the coming weeks, where fighting has been ongoing for eight years.
Russia hopes to control the entire area and create a land bridge with Crimea, which is annexed in 2014, Stoltenberg said.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February in what it called a ‘special military operation’ to diminish its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and rid people it called dangerous nationalists.
Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed serious sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw.
Peace talks have been ongoing since the conflict began, but a solution has not been reached.
— with files from Reuters.