UN Rights Council to hold urgent debate on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Ukraine's request to hold an urgent debate at the council in Geneva was supported by 29 of the council's 47 members.

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The UN Human Rights Council voted Monday to hold an urgent debate about Russia’s deadly invasion of Ukraine at Kyiv’s request, amid widespread international condemnation of Moscow’s attack.

Ukraine’s ambassador in Geneva Yevheniia Filipenko

Ukraine’s request to hold an urgent debate at the council in Geneva was supported by 29 of the council’s 47 members, with five voting against, including Russia and China, and 13 abstentions. Before the vote, Ukraine’s ambassador in Geneva, Yevheniia Filipenko, described Russia’s actions as an attack on the wider international community. 

“It was an attack not only on Ukraine, it was an attack on every UN member state, on the United Nations and on the principles that this organisation was created to defend,” she said.

She said that over 350 people had been killed in the five days since the invasion began, including 16 children.

Russia’s ambassador in Geneva Gennady Gatilov

Russia’s ambassador in Geneva Gennady Gatilov meanwhile slammed the call for a debate, insisting it was Kyiv, not Moscow who was the aggressor. Kyiv, he said, was only trying to “distract the attention of the international community” away from its attacks on separatist regions in eastern Ukraine over the past eight years, he claimed.

“The decision to conduct a special operation to stop the tragedy in Ukraine was taken. We had no other choice,” he said, insisting that “this operation is targeted in nature, and there is no fire on civilian sites.”

His arguments failed to convince however, with an overwhelming majority of the council voting to go ahead with the debate.

It will take place on Thursday after three days of speeches by ministers and top officials from over 140 countries, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is due to speak in person on Tuesday.

Russia has become an international pariah as its forces do battle on the streets of Ukraine’s cities, facing a barrage of sanctions and banned from Western airspace and key financial networks. The UN General Assembly is also due to host a rare special session in New York Monday on the conflict.

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