The United Nations on Thursday voted to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council following reports alleging Russian forces carried out war crimes in recent days. Later, a Russian official announced that the country would quit the Council.
Ninety-three countries voted in favor of booting Russia from the Council, while 24 voted against it and 58 abstained from voting. China, Iran, Syria, and Belarus were among those who voted against the measure.
Russia is now the second country to be removed from the Human Rights Council. In 2011, Libya was suspended in response to former strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s actions during the Arab Spring protests, which turned into a movement to overthrow his government.
A draft of the resolution that was voted on said the U.N. General Assembly may “suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
The resolution also said that member states have expressed “grave concern” about alleged “systematic violations and abuses of human rights” and “violations of international humanitarian law” since the Ukraine-Russia conflict started on Feb. 24.
The move was spurred by Ukrainian allegations over the past weekend that Russian forces executed civilians in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, as they pulled out of the region last week. Ukrainian authorities posted videos and photos of individuals who appeared to have been executed, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
Top Kremlin officials have categorically denied the claims and have accused Kyiv of staging photos and videos of bodies as a provocation, while Russia’s leadership has accused the West of fomenting a narrative to disrupt peace talks between the two sides. The Epoch Times has not been able to independently verify the photos and videos that emerged from Bucha in recent days.
Before Thursday’s vote, Deputy Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Gennady Kuzmin called on U.N. states to reject the resolution and called it a “dangerous precedent.”
“Today is not the time nor the place for theatrics,” he said. “The draft resolution we are considering today has no relationship to the actual human rights situation on the ground.”
Later, Kuzmin said that Russia will quit the U.N. human rights body after the vote, according to Reuters. “In today’s conditions, the council is in fact monopolized by one group of states who use it for their short term-aims,” he said.
The United States, meanwhile, made the argument that because of alleged war crimes, Russia shouldn’t have a position in the Human Rights body.
“Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose purpose—whose very purpose—is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is it the height of hypocrisy—it is dangerous,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Thursday. “Every day, we see more and more how little Russia respects human rights.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba hailed Thursday’s vote.
“War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights. Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant UNGA resolution and chose the right side of history,” he wrote on Twitter.
Russia was in its second year of a three-year term on the Geneva-based council, which cannot make legally binding decisions. Its decisions send important political messages, however, and it can authorize investigations.
Reuters contributed to this report.