Blinken questions Russia’s place on UN Human Rights Council, rebukes soft language from Putin allies

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken questioned whether Russia should be booted from the United Nations Human Rights Council Tuesday as Russian forces continue to bombard Ukraine.

“Reports of Russia’s human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law mount by the hour. Russian strikes are hitting schools, hospitals and residential buildings,” Blinken said in a virtual address to the council.

“One can reasonably ask whether a UN member state that tries to take over another UN member state – while committing horrific human rights abuses and causing massive humanitarian suffering – should be allowed to remain on this council,” he added. 

Ukrainian emergency service personnel and servicemen stand by a body of a victim following shelling of the City Hall in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy)

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Blinken’s comments come as nations begin to question whether Russia should also be removed as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for its violation of international law. 

Causalities continue to rise in Ukraine as Russia pushes forward with its violent invasion six days after forces began their full invasion into Ukraine. 

Russia on Tuesday launched missiles at the city of Kharkiv where 1.5 million people reside – hitting an administrative building and residential areas. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there were dozens of casualties and called the strikes “frank, undisguised terror.”

“Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget,” he continued. “This attack on Kharkiv is a war crime.” 

As Ukrainians scramble to defend themselves and Russia makes gains throughout the country, Western allies continue to hit back on Moscow through sanctions and diplomatic demands. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the nation in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

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Blinken condemned placatory language by nations on the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council and argued they are contributing to the security threat Ukraine already faces.

“Council members should stop using language implying that all sides bear equal responsibility for the unprovoked attack of one side. This isn’t evenhanded – it’s wrong – and fails to place accountability where it belongs,” the secretary of state said. “The same goes for members who argue, falsely, that denouncing human rights abuses is ‘politicizing’ the situation. 

“It is failing to speak up about human rights abuses that politicizes the situation,” he added.

Blinken did not directly call out any nations by name, but China, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan – all of which serve as council members – have actively refused to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. 

Zelenskyy recalled Ukraine’s ambassadors to Kyrgyzstan and Georgia Tuesday after reports surfaced alleging both countries offered sympathetic positions to Putin.

Ukrainian emergency service personnel carry a body of a victim out of the damaged City Hall following shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy)

The Ukraine ambassador was removed from Kyrgyzstan after it showed “justification…of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in a video address, first reported Radio Free Europe.

Georgia was also targeted for what Zelenskyy described as an “immoral attitude towards sanctions.”

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China has been widely criticized by Western nations for its repeated claims that it respects state sovereignty and yet has refused to openly condemn Putin’s illegal invasion into Ukraine. 

“At a moment when the world needs both moral clarity and unity from this council, some governments are arguing that sovereignty gives countries the right to do whatever they want within their borders,” Blinken said.  “It’s no coincidence that many of the governments making this argument are systematically abusing human rights – and have been eerily silent in the face of Russia’s flagrant assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

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