Russia suspended from UN human rights council over Ukraine

US-led push garnered 93 votes in favour, while 24 countries voted no and 58 abstained

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” by invading Russian troops in Ukraine.

The US-led push garnered 93 votes in favour, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members – abstentions do not count – was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member council.

Russia said on Thursday that a vote by UN member states to suspend it from the UN Human Rights Council was illegal and politically motivated, the RIA news agency reported.

RIA also quoted Gennady Kuzmin, deputy Russian ambassador to the UN, as saying Russia had decided to give up its membership immediately, on April 7th.


The suspension came as Ukraine appealed to to Nato to give it more weapons to fight a Russian invasion, while pushing the West to impose more punishing sanctions against Moscow.

Kyiv’s foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine was seeking planes, “shore-to-vessel missiles”, armoured vehicles, and heavy air defence systems.*

Following a meeting on Thursday, Nato’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said allies were “ready to do more to provide more equipment”. However, he declined to reveal details publicly.

Steps to send weapons to Ukraine have been tempered by concerns about escalating the conflict and the risk of drawing Nato towards a direct confrontation with Russia.

The resolution adopted by the 193-member General Assembly draft expresses “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” particularly at reports of rights abuses by Russia.

Russia had warned countries that a yes vote or abstention will be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties, according to a note seen by Reuters.

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 authorise investigations.

Moscow is one of the most vocal members on the council and its suspension bars it from speaking and voting, officials say, although its diplomats could still attend debates. “They would probably still try to influence the Council through proxies,” said a Geneva-based diplomat.

Suspensions are rare. Libya was suspended in 2011 because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Last month the council opened an investigation into allegations of rights violations, including possible war crimes, in Ukraine since Russia’s attack.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th, the General Assembly has adopted two resolutions denouncing Russia with 141 and 140 votes in favour. Moscow says it is carrying out a “special operation” to demilitarize Ukraine.

Bucha atrocities

The United States announced it would seek Russia’s suspension after Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing hundreds of civilians in the town of Bucha.

Russia denies attacking civilians in Ukraine. UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Tuesday that while Bucha was under Russian control “not a single civilian suffered from any kind of violence.”

Earlier, G7 foreign ministers condemned what they said were atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Ukraine, adding that those responsible would be held to account.

“We, the G7 Foreign Ministers ... and the High Representative of the European Union, condemn in the strongest terms the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in Bucha and a number of other Ukrainian towns,” they said a joint statement published by Britain.

In addition, Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida has said Japan will unveil further sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as early as Friday after coordinating with Group of Seven (G7) allies on further punitive steps.

He also said Japan would release a record amount of oil reserves to help curb prices in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

He said Japan will release 15 million barrels of oil from state and private reserves as part of a second round of the coordinated release led by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

IEA states agreed to tap 60 million barrels of oil from storage, the director of the group said on Wednesday, on top of a 180 million-barrel release announced by Washington last week.

Ukraine wants sanctions crippling enough to force Russia to end its war after accusing some countries of putting economic wellbeing above punishment for civilian killings that the West condemns as war crimes.

The democratic world must stop buying Russian oil and completely block Russian banks from the international finance system, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his daily video address early on Thursday.

“Some politicians are still unable to decide how to limit the flow of petrodollars and oil euros to Russia so as not to put their own economies at risk,” Mr Zelenskiy said.

As the Russian attack continues, many in the eastern town of Derhachi, just north of Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv and near the border with Russia, have decided to leave while they can.

Buildings have been badly damaged by Russian artillery. Kharkiv itself has been hammered by air and rocket strikes from the start.

Mykola, a father of two in Derhachi who declined to give his surname, said he could hear the thud of bombardments every night, and had been hunkering down with his family in the corridor of their home.

“(We’ll go) wherever there are no explosions, where the children won’t have to hear them,” he said, hugging his young son and struggling to hold back the tears.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said 167 children have so far been killed in the war, with 297 wounded. – Additional reporting: Reuters

*Article amended at 9am on April 8th, 2022

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times