The top human rights official at the United Nations said on Thursday that her staff had documented scores of cases of Russian forces targeting male Ukrainian civilians around Kyiv — beating, detaining or executing some, and taking some to detention camps inside Russia.
“My staff met with families who are searching for their missing male relatives, desperate to know where they are, if they are alive, and how they can get them back,” said the official, Michelle Bachelet said, speaking at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Ms. Bachelet said her office had recorded 180 cases of forced disappearance of local officials, journalists, activists, civilians and retired servicemen, and eight cases of pro-Russian individuals who had disappeared.
The United States assumed the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of May, and Thursday’s session was the first of the body’s meetings on Ukraine that it led.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that there were “no signs Russia’s war against Ukraine is abating,” and that there were two ways the Security Council could help the country “return to normalcy”: by supporting the Ukrainian people and “by holding Russia accountable.”
The meeting followed a familiar pattern: U.N. officials offered briefings on the latest humanitarian toll and efforts to provide aid, diplomats sounded alarms and condemned Russia, and Russia dismissed all accusations as falsehoods.
Diplomats’ statements at the Security Council have had little impact on the ground, with Russia’s veto power blocking any legally binding resolution on the war. But Western diplomats said holding regular meetings on the conflict kept Ukraine at the center of the Security Council’s debates and demonstrated Russia’s isolation.
António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, traveled to Russia and Ukraine last week, and through “quiet diplomacy,” as the United Nations puts it, brokered a deal for the safe evacuation of about 500 civilians trapped in Mariupol and other areas where fighting has been intense.
“The war on Ukraine is senseless in its scope, ruthless in its dimensions and limitless in its potential for global harm,” Mr. Guterres said on Thursday, adding that a third evacuation operation was underway but that he would offer no details so as not undermine it. At a donors’ conference in Warsaw on Thursday that sought more aid for Ukraine, Martin Griffiths, the United Nations’ emergency relief coordinator, said a convoy was en route to Mariupol and expected to arrive on Friday for more evacuation efforts.
Russia rejected Mr. Guterres’s role in mediating an evacuation deal, saying at the Security Council meeting that it had regularly kept humanitarian corridors open for civilians in Mariupol. Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., accused the West of waging a proxy war it had long planned against his country.
Russia has used the United Nations as a platform for its information war about Ukraine, and has called its own informal Security Council meeting on Friday, to discuss what it describes as Ukraine’s human rights violations. Russia uses such assertions to deflect attention from the documented atrocities committed by its forces in Ukraine.
China, which has not condemned Russia publicly, appeared to take up Russia’s line. China’s ambassador, Zhang Jun, delivered an unusually scathing speech, accusing the West of the “morally despicable” effort of trying to benefit from the war.
Mr. Zhang also criticized the West for arming Ukraine, imposing sanctions on Russia and seizing its assets and NATO for expanding eastward, saying it had “sowed the seeds of conflict.”
Tetiana Luzan, a representative of Ukraine’s civil society, spoke to the Security Council by video, appealing to the international community to help Ukraine as it struggles to cope with a rapidly growing number of traumatized and displaced people while fighting a war. She asked for more assistance in documenting the atrocities committed by Russia.
“Each life is priceless,” Ms. Luzan said, “and relatives deserve to know the truth.” – NYTimes