During a speech before the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday morning, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Russia for killing civilians in Ukraine and suggested that Russia be kicked off the council.
According to Blinken, Russian strikes “are hitting schools, hospitals, and residential buildings.”
“They are destroying critical infrastructure that provides drinking water, gas to keep people from freezing to death, and electricity to millions of people across Ukraine,” Blinken said. “Civilian buses, cars, and ambulances have all been targeted. Every day, Russia does this across Ukraine.”
The top US diplomat’s remarks come after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of war crimes for bombing Kharkiv. Russian attacks on civilians have occurred in the last two days, indicating a shift toward a far more aggressive bombing campaign. Earlier Russian attacks were primarily directed at military targets.
According to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko, at least ten people were killed and 35 were injured in rocket attacks by Russian forces on the center of Kharkiv on Tuesday. According to videos posted by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ukrainian government officials, a large explosion destroyed a government building in central Kharkiv.
According to the UN, at least 102 civilians have been killed and 304 have been injured across the country, though these figures are likely to underestimate the true toll.
A senior US defense official stated that the Russian military is risk averse with its own troops, but not with civilians, noting that the Russian defense ministry openly admitted that it would target Ukrainian government infrastructure in Kyiv.
“We cannot conclusively say that they are deliberately targeting civilian population areas or civilians. We are unable to demonstrate this “Tuesday, the official stated. “However, they do not appear to be as risk-averse when it comes to the impact they have on the civilian population as they appear to be with their own troops.”
The UN Human Rights Council is comprised of 47 member states elected by the UN General Assembly, and Russia is one of them.
“One can reasonably question whether a UN member state that attempts to take over another UN member state while committing horrific human rights violations and causing massive humanitarian suffering” should be allowed to remain on the Council, Blinken said.
Blinken also chastised countries such as China for failing to state unequivocally that Russia is the sole perpetrator of the crisis.
“Council members should stop using language that implies that all sides bear equal responsibility for one side’s unprovoked attack,” he said. “This isn’t fair; it’s wrong, and it fails to place accountability where it belongs. The same is true for members who falsely claim that condemning human rights violations is ‘politicizing’ the situation. It is failing to speak up about human rights abuses that politicizes the situation.”
Blinken challenged the UNHRC to work together to prevent a bloodier war.
“These are the types of human rights violations that this Council was formed to address. When will we be able to come together if we can’t come together now?” Blinken inquired.
Zelensky also made an impassioned plea to European leaders on Tuesday to “prove” their support for his country.
“We are fighting for our lives,” he said earlier Tuesday in a speech to the EU Parliament.