UNITED NATIONS — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the United Nations Security Council for the first time on Tuesday, at a meeting that is expected to centre on what appear to be premeditated killings of civilians by Russian troops in Ukraine.
The bodies were discovered after Russian soldiers withdrew from a settlement on the outskirts of Kyiv, and have generated international anger and furious denials from the Russian authorities.
The United Kingdom, which is hosting the council presidency this month, said late Monday that Zelenskyy would speak at an open meeting on the situation in Ukraine set for Tuesday.
After receiving briefings from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, his political chief Rosemary DiCarlo, and U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, who is attempting to arrange an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and met with senior Russian officials in Moscow on Monday and will soon be heading to Ukraine, Zelenskyy will address the UN’s most powerful body virtually.
Global outrage has followed videos and photos of streets in Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians, some with their hands tied behind their backs, prompting calls for tougher sanctions and Russia’s suspension from the United Nations’ top human rights body, the Human Rights Council.
The bodies of 410 citizens have been retrieved from Bucha and other Kyiv-area towns recently retaken from Russian soldiers, according to Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova.
Journalists from the Associated Press have reported seeing dozens of bodies in several locations near Bucha, which is located northwest of the city. A group of nine people dressed in civilian clothes were among the deceased, and they appeared to have been shot at close range. At least two of them were bound behind their backs with their hands tied behind their backs. Near one of the bodies was a bag of spilled goods.
On Monday, Russia’s UN envoy, Vassily Nebenzia, accused Ukraine and the West of staging a “false flag operation” to blame Russian troops for crimes committed by Ukrainian nationalists in Bucha. He requested a video of bodies lying in the the streets “a crude forgery,” and insisted that during the time that Bucha was under Russian control, “not a single local person has suffered from any violent action.”
The Russian envoy released a brief video of the smiling mayor of Bucha on March 31 calling the withdrawal of Russian forces a win for the Ukrainian army and never mentioning “any major atrocities, dead bodies, killings, graves, or anything like that” at a news conference. On April 2, he also presented footage from Ukrainian television showing Ukrainian military entering Bucha with “no dead bodies in the streets.”
On Tuesday, he said, Russia would offer more “factual proof” to the Security Council.
Nebenzia was questioned if he thought footage of Ukrainian family members speaking about loved ones murdered by Russian troops were staged as well. “This is warfare,” he replied. Anything can happen in a battle. You can’t rule out the possibility of civilian deaths. That is correct a sad fact of life.”
He did, however, claim that the Bucha tapes were “fabricated.”
The United Nations has been a source of contention for the United Kingdom. The photographs from Bucha are “harrowing, horrific, probably proof of war crimes and possibly a genocide,” according to ambassador Barbara Woodward, who says the Security Council needs to “think about how we deal with it.”
Because Russia, as one of the council’s five permanent members, wields veto power, the council remains unable to take any action on Ukraine. However, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly, which has no veto power, has condemned Russia’s incursion and urged an immediate halt to hostilities, the evacuation of Russian forces, and civilian protection.
U.S. The United States will shortly introduce a General Assembly resolution suspending Russia from the United Nations’ main human rights committee, according to Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the 57-nation Human Rights Council, saying there are increasing signs that it committed war crimes in Ukraine. The council is situated in Geneva, although its members are chosen by the General Assembly of 193 nations.
The US wants to seek a vote “as soon as possible this week, and potentially as early as Thursday,” Thomas-Greenfield told NPR late Monday.
Any resolution suspending Russia’s membership rights would need two-thirds of member countries voting “yes” or “no” to pass. Unlike Security Council decisions, Assembly resolutions are not legally enforceable, but they do have significance as a reflection of world opinion.
Russia had requested an emergency Security Council meeting on Monday afternoon to discuss Bucha, but Woodward told reporters that “we didn’t see a legitimate reason to have two sessions back-to-back on Ukraine” because the council meeting on Tuesday was already scheduled.
Nebenzia was asked if the US-led move to exclude Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, as well as Britain’s refusal to convene an emergency Security Council meeting on Russia’s request on Monday, will have an impact on discussions between Moscow and Kyiv.
“What is going on between Russian and Ukrainian peace talks will not be facilitated, encouraged, or beneficial,” Nebenzia stated.