Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded full accountability for the “most terrible war crimes” committed since World War II as he described Russia’s atrocities in his besieged nation during his first address to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday.
His brief video address to the U.N.’s most powerful body emphasized that Russian troops are deliberately killing Ukrainian civilians and those responsible for giving the orders should immediately be brought before a Nuremberg-like tribunal to be tried on war crimes charges.
Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of gruesome atrocities in Ukraine and told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that those responsible should immediately be brought up on war crimes charges in front of a tribunal like the Nuremberg trials held by the Allies after World War II. “This undermines the whole architecture of global security,” Zelenskyy said. “They are destroying everything.”
He compared Russia’s atrocities in Bucha, Ukraine — where videos and photos showed corpses in the streets — with the killings, rapes and mutiliations by ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
“Now the world can see what Russia did in Bucha,” said Zelenskyy. “They cut off limbs, cut their throats. Women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out only because their aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them.”
Zelenskyy called into question whether the 15-nation council, which was meeting in New York, should still be considered a key global institution for protecting peace if it “cannot work effectively” any longer, because it is so often deadlocked or blocked from action by disagreement among its five permanent, veto-wielding members, which include Russia along with Britain, China, France and the United States.
“Bucha is one of the many examples of what the occupiers have been doing on our land for 41 days,” Zelenskyy said of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February. He pointed out that Article 1 of the U.N. Charter calls for the maintenance of peace which, if not accomplished, calls into question the world body’s reason for being. “Where is the security that the Security Council is supposed to be guaranteed?” he asked.
🧵Today's 10am ET UN Security Council meeting on #Ukraine is gearing up to be a big deal. President Zelensky will join by video after UN chief @antonioguterres, @DicarloRosemary & @UNReliefChief speak.https://t.co/MqigQccaoG pic.twitter.com/44BLpcr7gS
— louis charbonneau (@loucharbon) April 5, 2022
A ‘cynical and outright lie’
The killings in Bucha were revealed after Russian military forces withdrew from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and have led to calls for Russia to be suspended from the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia denied that Russian troops committed atrocities in Bucha, saying they were instead the work of Ukrainian nationalists. While Bucha was under Russian control “not a single civilian suffered from any kind of violence,” he said.
Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya countered that Russia was spreading disinformation through a “cynical and outright lie that you don’t hit civilian targets.”
In Geneva, Elizabeth Throssell, a spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters that her office had not yet gained access Bucha so it did not have any direct information on what happened there. But she said the photos strongly suggested civilians were directly targeted, which is a war crime under international humanitarian law.
A day earlier, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said she was horrified by images of civilians lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves at Bucha.
“Reports emerging from this and other areas raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes as well as grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law,” said Bachelet, a former president of Chile who heads OHCHR.
“It is essential that all bodies are exhumed and identified so that victims’ families can be informed, and the exact causes of death established. All measures should be taken to preserve evidence,” she said. “It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families.”
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said that 410 civilian bodies were found in Bucha and other Russian-occupied towns near Kyiv that Ukrainian forces recaptured. “Torture chamber was discovered in a children’s sanatorium in Bucha by prosecutors and Kyiv Regional police officers,” she said. “We will establish all the circumstances of war crimes committed by the Russian Federation, the persons involved and bring them to justice.”