UNITED NATIONS – During a special session of the United Nations Security Council held on April 5 to address the recent discovery of mass atrocities committed by Russian forces in towns surrounding Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on the U.N. to immediately expel the Russian Federation from the Security Council and all other U.N. bodies.
Mr. Zelenskyy, speaking during a virtual address before the Security Council, specifically requested that a war crimes trial modeled after the Nuremberg Trials of the 1940s be established.
As Russian forces withdrew from areas outside of Kyiv during the first days of April, the Ukrainian Armed Forces began to uncover horrific scenes of death in Bucha, Irpin and other towns that had been occupied by invading Russian troops.
In his statement to the U.N., which was accompanied by a short video with gut-wrenching images of mangled bodies left on the streets following the Russian military’s retreat, Mr. Zelenskyy said that Russia’s continued inclusion in the Security Council and participation in other important U.N. bodies, such as the Human Rights Council, gives Russia a platform from which to lie to the world.
He said it also makes a mockery of the intent and purpose of U.N., Mr. Zelenskyy said.
The Ukrainian president warned member nations of the Security Council not to become complicit in Russia’s aggression.
By allowing Russia to remain a member of the council, the U.N. was “effectively giving Russia the right to vote for the death of Ukrainians,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. “The only option now is either to remove Russia from the Security Council or dissolve the Council.”
Mr. Zelenskyy also accused Russia of committing war crimes, and requested that a process similar to the Nuremberg Trials be established to help determine the extent of Russia’s abuse of Ukraine’s citizens, whether it was responsible for the destruction of targets banned by international law, and to provide appropriate punishment for the perpetrators.
He asked that the world not wait for more atrocities to occur, but that it instead identify and prosecute Russian war crimes immediately.
The session began with a tense and bitter exchange between the Permeant Representative of the Russian Federation to the U.N. Vasily Nebenzya and Dame Barbara Woodward, the chair of the Security Council and the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the U.N.
Ms. Woodward responded to Russia’s complaint that she had broken Security Council protocol by rejecting Russia’s two requests for a special session.
Russia had made two requests within 12 hours on April 3 for a special session to be held on April 4, prior to a similar request made by the representative from Ukraine, in order for the Russian government to respond to accusations made by Ukraine and journalists that Russia had committed atrocities in Ukraine.
Ms. Woodward noted that, within protocol, the Security Council has 48 hours to respond to such requests, and, within that timeframe, the council responded with two options: that a representative of the Russian Federation be allowed to speak on April 5, along with the president of Ukraine, or that another special session be held later that afternoon.
Russia’s requests, she noted, were not refused; rather, Russia rejected both options offered.
Prior to Mr. Zelenskyy’s virtual address, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres and Under Secretaries General Rosemary Di Carlo and Milton Griffiths spoke about the various consequences of the war, including the number of injured, dead, displaced and homeless persons in Ukraine. They highlighted the massive destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, stressed the need to increase humanitarian aid to the war-torn country, and discussed potential consequences of the war, such as an increase in disease, human trafficking, looting and the strain placed on countries accepting refugees from Ukraine.
Other representatives of the U.N. Security Council offered statements of support for Ukraine. They included statements from Ireland, Albania, France, Ghana, Kenya, Norway, the United States and the United Kingdom.
While China called for an end to the war, the Chinese ambassador to the U.N. warned that superpowers should not use their international clout to financially penalize other countries without regard to the impact such sanctions have on other nations.
Many Security Council representatives cautioned that the consequences of Russia’s war on Ukraine are not and will not be limited to Ukraine.
Potential food and energy shortages and disruptions in trade will lead to economic and political instability, increased food insecurity and an increase overall in poverty, they cautioned.
As a result, they called for immediate end to Russia’s war on Ukraine and a full withdrawal of troops from Ukrainian territory.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the U.N., struck an ominous note in her remarks about Ukrainians who have been forcibly moved into “filtration camps” within Russia.
Moscow has used such camps since World War II, when Soviet soldiers who had been German prisoners of war were detained upon their return to the Soviet Union.
In order to test their loyalty, the soldiers were often tortured for information and berated for their weakness for being captured.
The Ukrainian government estimates that some 45,000 people have already been taken by Russia and are being held in similar camps, where experts suspect their loyalty to Russia is being tested.
Experts also say Russia would test their desire to return to Ukraine to spy on Moscow’s behalf. In return, Russia would offer to release family members held by Russian authorities who would attempt to break any loyalty to Ukraine through fear, intimidation, torture, physical abuse including rape.
Mr. Nebenzya, in turn, relentlessly presented a false narrative, blamed Ukraine for atrocities committed by Russian soldiers and said Ukraine is “controlled by Nazis.”
He said Russia’s efforts to “de-Nazify” Ukraine was being done for the benefit of the world.
The atrocities in Ukraine, he claimed, were elaborately staged and were organized by the government of Ukraine in order to make the Russia army look grotesque.
He ignored comments from other Security Council members that satellite images prove otherwise.
Meanwhile, during a press conference on April 4, Mr. Nebenzya twice called Russia’s presence in Ukraine a war and not, as Russia has continuously maintained, a “special operation.”
Nearing the end of the Security Council session, Sergiy Kyslytsya, the permanent representative of Ukraine to the U.N., thanked Mr. Nebenzya for finally stating the truth about the war.
Mr. Kyslytsy noted that such an admission, no doubt, was inadvertent, but he said that Ukraine nonetheless thanks Russia for the long overdue honesty.
Irene Jarosewich serves as the Main Representative from the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations to the United Nations Department of Global Communications.