Tired Zelensky challenges the UN to respond with a graphic video

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of war crimes on Tuesday in a distant speech to the UN Security Council that contained a horrific video of a body calling on diplomats to take bold action or risk exposing the world body as a hollow institution.

“Are you ready to close the UN?” asked Zelensky, tired in appearance, and waved across the auditorium on a giant video screen. “Do you think the time for international law is over? If your answer is no, then you need to act immediately. “

Zelensky said Russian troops had tortured and killed civilians, burned corpses and raped women in front of their children. His video showed images of burnt corpses, severed limbs and mass graves. While The Washington Post could not independently confirm the accuracy of the stylized presentation, many similar images have been verified in recent days. And journalists who have entered parts of Ukraine recently cleared by Russian troops have published numerous interviews about atrocities that are said to have been committed during the invasion.

The presentation seemed to disturb diplomats in the council; even nations that have been diligently neutral in many meetings because of the situation in Ukraine, such as India, stood in line to call for an independent investigation into alleged atrocities. But diplomats, limited by Russia’s ability to veto any resolutions it has as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, did not take any action in response to Zelensky’s proposal to lift Moscow’s membership of the Human Rights Council.

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Many of the photos in Zelensky’s video were said to have been taken in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces, where Russian troops have been accused of killing a number of civilians. The release of verified photos from Bucha over the weekend provoked outrage and urged the international community to increase its pressure on Russia for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of its troops from Ukraine.

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, told the council that reports of Russia’s involvement in the Bucha deaths were “false” and that Ukrainian “Nazis” were responsible for war crimes.

But Foreign Minister Antony Blinken spoke to reporters as he left Washington for a NATO summit in Brussels, saying reports on Russia’s responsibility were “more than credible”. He said the alleged massacre was “not an accidental act of a ghost force,” he said, but “a deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape, commit atrocities.”

“The evidence is there for the world to see,” Blinken said. “This strengthens our determination and the determination of countries around the world to ensure that in one way or another, one day or another, there is a responsibility on those who committed these works.

Ukrainian human rights groups and prosecutors are gathering information in Bucha and across the country about what Zelensky said should be an international tribunal to prosecute the Russian government and military leaders for war crimes. France said the prosecutor’s office had launched three investigations into alleged Russian military crimes and said it had jurisdiction over actions in Ukrainian cities that were likely to have affected French nationals.

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In response to the alleged massacres, the European Commission proposed a new package of sanctions on Tuesday, including a ban on Russian coal imports, sanctions on four Russian banks and a ban on Russian ships from European ports, among other measures. EU ambassadors are due to discuss the proposal on Wednesday.

“These atrocities can not and will not be answered,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. “It is important to maintain the utmost pressure [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the Russian government at this crucial time. But the package does not meet the requirements for a trade embargo on Russian oil or natural gas, and it is unlikely that there will be a call for the EU to do more.

As Russia’s isolation from the West deepened, the EU joined a number of countries that have expelled Russian diplomats, claiming to have declared 19 members of the Russian EU embassy in Brussels personally incapacitated for “actions contrary to their diplomatic mission.

The US Treasury Department this week banned Russia from withdrawing money from US banks to pay off debt, an attempt to force the Kremlin to choose between catastrophic default and other difficult economic measures. And the Biden government will on Wednesday announce sanctions, including a ban on all new investment in Russia, sanctions against Russian banks and state-owned companies and additional sanctions against Russian officials, according to a source familiar with the matter. anonymity to reflect measures that have not yet been announced.

The Biden government on Tuesday agreed to send more Javelin tank missile systems to Ukraine to assist in its defense against Russia. Javelins worth $ 100 million is the sixth such haul of equipment from the Pentagon’s inventory since August, said John F. Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.

Also on Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, approved the idea of ​​a constant exchange of troops with US troops for NATO countries as a way to strengthen its borders with Russia.

“My advice would be to create permanent bases, not be permanent,” Milley told the House Military Committee. He said it would be cheaper to turn forces through permanent bases because it would eliminate the need for things like family housing and schools. Eastern European countries may even be willing to pay for the bases, Milley said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who testified alongside Milley, was more cautious, saying that NATO would discuss any changes to its European “footprint” at its planned summit in June.

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Although the Security Council could not take any action on Moscow’s opposition, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, urged nations to vote for Russia’s removal from the Human Rights Council – a measure that would require two-thirds of all members to be rejected. veto power.

“Russia should not have a position of authority in an organization that aims to promote respect for human rights,” she told a council meeting. “This is not only the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous. Russia uses its membership of the Human Rights Council as a platform for propaganda to signal that Russia has legitimate concerns about human rights.

Last month’s 193-strong General Assembly overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which calls for a ceasefire – which is reserved for countries that persistently violate human rights.

In his reply to Zelensky, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Nebenzya addressed the President of Ukraine by first name and Russian surname, telling him:

Russia’s goal in Ukraine, he said, was “not to conquer lands” but to establish “peace in the blood-soaked land of the Donbas,” the region in eastern Ukraine, which is mostly Russian-speaking, with Russian troops and mercenaries fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. “We need to eradicate cruelty, eradicate the malignant Nazi tumor,” Nebenzya said. “We will achieve that goal”

But Moscow’s claims were met with harsh backlash from countries including France, Norway, Britain and the United States, as well as UN officials. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the “significant loss of life” and “destruction of civilian infrastructure” and added his support to demands for an independent inquiry. Deputy Secretary-General Rosemary A. DiCarlo called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, saying serious violations of international law should be held accountable.

Zelensky, who was stabbed in the stomach by corpses with gunshot wounds to the head, urged the international community to take Russian leaders and soldiers to a special court to try them “immediately”.

If the United Nations is incapable of preventing crimes like Russia’s in Ukraine and promoting peace, they should resolve themselves, Zelensky said: “Recognize that there is nothing you can do but talk.

U.S. and European officials have said privately that although Zelensky’s requests were sometimes improbable, they had the effect of pushing world leaders beyond their comfort zone, such as providing more powerful weapons to Ukraine or imposing sanctions that harm Russia but increase gas costs. and other products for own citizens.

Nebenzya, who again responded to the interference of other members, offered a long timeline that he said showed how Ukrainian forces, not Russian ones, were responsible for the atrocities. Russian troops, he said, had withdrawn from Bucha last Wednesday, March 30, three days earlier. News of tortured, shot, and cremated corpses lying in the streets was widely circulated.

“Without any evidence, based on the premise of guilt, the Russian military is accused of some kind of atrocity,” Nebenzya said.

Behind Putin’s demand for “denial”

Addressing “my colleagues” in the Council through a UN interpreter, he said “we understand very well that what you are doing by inciting anti-Russia hysteria every single day, so we expect it to be another horrific provocation similar to the one in Bucha … new attempts to disrespect Russian troops and portray them as murderers and rapists. “This was, he said,” an incredibly low blow.

He then stared across the hall at Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador to Ukraine, who called Russia a hypocrite and asked: “When did you start behaving like a Nazi? Killing civilians, trying to draw up an internationally recognized border … finally setting the task of resolving the Ukraine issue, as Hitler tried to resolve the Jewish issue?

Kyslytsya recalled a “reprimand to Putin’s diplomats” and recalled that Nazi German officials, such as Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s foreign minister, “denied all knowledge of concentration camps, racial extermination policies, but were still found guilty in Nür.” war crimes trials. “

“And we all know what happened to him on October 16, 1946,” Kyslytsya said, recalling the date Ribbentrop was executed.

Karoun Demirjian and Missy Ryan in Washington; Robert Klemko in Kosiv, Ukraine; Rick Noack in Paris; Emily Rauhala in Brussels and Bryan Pietsch in Seoul contributed to this report.

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