Russia suspended from UN human rights body over Ukraine ‘abuses’

Moscow expels two Irish diplomats in retaliation for expulsion of four Russians

Russia was suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday over allegations of war crimes by the Kremlin's troops in Ukraine.

Ireland was one of 93 nations at the UN General Assembly in New York that voted to remove Russia from the council over "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" by invading Russian troops after reports and images of civilian killings emerged this week.

The resolution against Russia, led by the US and co-sponsored by Ireland, was proposed following accusations that Russian soldiers tortured and killed civilians in Bucha near Kyiv.

Twenty-four countries, including Belarus, China, Iran, Syria and Russia, voted against the resolution, while 58 countries abstained, including India.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar welcomed the vote as a "significant step" and said the world had "united against brutality being inflicted on Ukraine".

Expulsions

Coinciding with the UN vote, Russia expelled two Irish diplomats from the embassy in Moscow in retaliation for the expulsion of four senior Russian officials from Dublin last week.

Russia said the move was in response to “unfriendly and groundless steps taken by the Irish authorities” and warned the Government that if it continued its “destructive line” towards Russia, it should not doubt “Moscow’s determination to respond proportionately to any hostile steps”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said there was “no justification” for the move, which would “significantly reduce our ability to provide services to our citizens in Russia”.

Last week the Government expelled four Russian officials for activities “not in accordance with international standards for diplomatic behaviour” – code for diplomats being suspected of spying.

At the UN, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia's continued role on the UN Human Rights Council "hurts" its credibility and "undermines the entire UN". The council reviews the human rights records of all UN members. Libya is the only other country to have been suspended from the 47-member Geneva-based council, in 2011 over the violent repression of protesters by forces loyal to the then leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Russia could not continue to sit on the council “while making a mockery of its responsibilities as a member”.

Warning of escalation

In a forewarning of an escalation in the war, Ukraine's foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said the battle with the Russians for the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine would "remind" people of the second World War with thousands of tanks, armoured vehicles, aircraft and artillery.

He appealed to Nato to provide more weapons to fight a Russian invasion and pushed the West to impose more punishing sanctions against Moscow, warning that action was needed fast to prevent more civilians being killed.

Arriving at a meeting with Nato, Mr Kuleba said his agenda was very simple: with only three items on it: “Weapons, weapons, weapons.”

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was "ready to do more" on supplying military equipment.

In Romania, members of the Oireachtas EU affairs committee were told about concerns of a massive surge in Ukrainian refugee numbers if the Russian offensive spread west along Ukraine's southern region to Odesa, the country's third-largest city.

Col Dogeanu Marius of Romania’s emergency response department said an attack on Odesa could lead to 60,000 to 70,000 refugees crossing Moldova’s Palanca border a day, from 1,700 currently, and 45,000 to 50,000 a day crossing at Siret in northern Romania from 2,000 currently.

“It will put a lot of pressure here on this border crossing point,” he told Irish parliamentarians at a meeting at the border control post at Siret.

Some 677,000 Ukrainians have crossed into Romania since the war began on February 24th.