Ukraine war: UN votes in favour of suspending Russia from Human Rights Council

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Ukraine war: UN votes in favour of suspending Russia from Human Rights Council

Sergiy Kyslytsya, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly   —  

Russia’s war in Ukraine is taking on a new dimension with growing evidence of human rights atrocities by Vladimir Putin’s troops, accused of killing civilians in cold blood as they retreated from the Kyiv region.

Despite Moscow denying the accusations, there are fears similar massacres could be discovered in the coming days.

Ukraine is calling for more weapons from NATO and stronger Western sanctions against Russia.

Follow our latest updates from the war in our blog below, or watch TV coverage in the video player, above.

06:49

Thursday’s key points:

    United Nations countries voted 93-24 in favour of suspending Russia’s membership in the international body’s Human Rights Council due to the allegations of a string of rights violations by its soldiers in Ukraine.»Heated» discussions have been underway among EU national representatives over a fifth package of sanctions against Russia, Euronews understands. The European Commission has proposed a halt to Russian coal imports and a bar on Russian ships in EU ports.The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the imposition of a «total and immediate» embargo on imports of «oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas» from Russia.Failure to agree an embargo on Russian oil is costing Ukrainian lives, Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy said in his latest address. He also accused Russia of trying to hide evidence of war crimes to interfere with an international investigation.’Weapons, weapons, weapons’: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on NATO to provide Kyiv with all the weaponry it needs to fight Russia, as alliance ambassadors meet for a second day in Brussels.Ukrainian officials have been urging residents of eastern regions to evacuate in the face of an impending Russian offensive. Authorities say nearly 5,000 people were evacuated from combat areas on Wednesday.The UN General Assembly is due to vote on Thursday on a US-initiated resolution to suspend Russia from the world organisation’s leading human rights body.Ukraine has accused Hungary of «helping Putin» in the war by undermining EU unity. Meanwhile France’s President Macron has responded angrily to criticism by Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki of his dialogue with Vladimir Putin.A new report by Meta details a troubling increase in social media disinformation this year, with groups linked to the Kremlin spreading a false narrative about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

19:19

US bans exports to three Russian airlines

The US moved to choke off US exports to three Russian airlines on Thursday as part of what officials described as an unprecedented enforcement action.

The Commerce Department said the move would prevent the Russian national flag carrier Aeroflot, Utair and Azur Air from receiving items from the US, including parts to service their aircraft.

Matthew Axelrod, an assistant commerce secretary for export enforcement, told reporters the sanctioned airlines will largely be unable to continue to fly since they will be cut off from the parts and services needed to maintain their fleets.

The actions, known as temporary denial orders, do allow the Commerce Department to grant exceptions when the safety of a flight would be at risk. The orders extend for 180 days, though they can be renewed.

(AP)

18:28

UN members voted in favour of suspending Russia from Human Rights Council

The UN General Assembly has voted to suspend Russia from its leading human rights body over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, considered to be tantamount to war crimes.

Russia is the second country to have its membership rights stripped at the Human Rights Council, which was established in 2006. In 2011, the assembly suspended Libya when upheaval in the North African country brought down longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The vote on Thursday was 93-24 with 58 abstentions. That is significantly lower than votes on two resolutions the assembly adopted last month demanding an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, withdrawal of all Russian troops and protection for civilians. Both resolutions were approved by at least 140 nations.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield launched the campaign to suspend Russia from its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council in the wake of videos and photos of streets in the Ukrainian town of Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians after Russian soldiers retreated.

The deaths have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions against the Kremlin, which has denied its troops were responsible.

(AP)

14:37

Discussion on new EU sanctions turning ‘heated’ among member states

EU ambassadors are currently discussing the fifth package of sanctions against Russia that the European Commission proposed on Tuesday in response to the killings in Bucha, near Kyiv.

National representatives have expressed their displeasure with the Commission’s decision of announcing the penalties to the press before circulating the draft among member states.

Discussions have been taking place since Wednesday morning and continue on Thursday. The debate is becoming “heated,” Euronews understands, as some coastal countries, such as Cyprus, Malta and Greece, raise concerns regarding a new measure that would block Russian vessels from EU ports – with exemptions for food products, humanitarian aid and energy.

The three nations want to ensure the sanctions don’t backfire and cause excessive damage to their domestic shipping industries, which have a considerable economic weight in their economies.

EU envoys are also negotiating the pace of the coal phase-out the Commission has proposed. The latest compromise suggests the coal ban will only take full effect from mid-August, a month later than expected.

The change was introduced at the behest of Germany, Euronews understands. Berlin had previously unveiled plans to become independent of Russian coal by the autumn.

If approved, this will be the first raft of EU sanctions that directly targets Russian fossil fuels, the Kremlin’s main source of revenue.

(Efi Koutsokosta, Euronews Brussels Bureau)

14:29

Russian invasion driving more disinformation online, says Meta

A plot by pro-Russian hackers was working to post fake Ukrainian surrender messages online when it was disrupted, Meta said on Thursday.

The parent company for Facebook and Instagram said the hackers had broken into the social media accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military officers and were working to upload videos of defeated and surrendering Ukrainian soldiers.

A new report by Meta details a troubling increase in social media disinformation this year.

Russia and its allies are major players, according to the report, with groups linked to the Kremlin spreading disinformation about its invasion of Ukraine while amplifying pro-Russian conspiracy theories at home.

Meta traced the effort to take over the social media accounts of dozens of Ukrainian military leaders back to a shadowy hacker organization known as Ghostwriter, which previous research has linked to Belarus, a Russian ally.

Ghostwriter has a history of spreading content critical of NATO, and also has tried to hack email accounts.

Belarus and Russia have not responded to the claims.

Within Russia, the Kremlin has blocked hundreds of news sources and websites, including Facebook and Twitter, and threatened jail time to anyone who tries to report on the war. In the place of accurate journalism, the state-controlled media have pumped out discredited conspiracy theories about Ukrainian Nazis or secret US bioweapon labs.

Meta and other big tech companies have responded by removing or restricting Russian state-run media, by targeting disinformation networks and by labelling content it does not remove.

Meta said it would be rolling out additional policies in the coming weeks and months to make sure it stays ahead of groups looking to exploit its platforms.

But according to the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, a London-based nonprofit that supports greater social media regulation, the prevalence of Russian-linked propaganda and disinformation on social media shows that a more aggressive response is needed. 

“Despite taking action against state channels under enormous pressure, Meta is failing badly to contain major disinformation narratives that benefit Putin’s regime,” said Imran Ahmed, the centre’s CEO.

(with AP)

13:59

MEPs demand full embargo on Russian oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas imports

The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the imposition of a «total and immediate» embargo on imports of «oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas» from Russia.

The vote was carried by 513 votes in favour, with 22 against and 19 abstentions.

Commenting on the non-binding vote, the parliament’s president Roberta Metsola called it a significant step, saying MEPs had sent a strong message of support to those on the front line in Ukraine.

The parliament’s appeal goes further than proposals put forward by the European Commission, which is recommending a halt to Russian coal imports, which represent 45% of the EU’s total imports of coal.

However, a possible embargo on Russian oil (25% of total European oil imports) and Russian gas (45% of the total) is the subject of bitter discussions between member states, Berlin having publicly expressed its reluctance.

(with AFP)

12:41

Ukrainian command ship on fire in Mariupol

Satellite photos show a Ukrainian naval vessel on fire in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

The images from Planet Labs PBC appear to show the Ukrainian command ship Donbas ablaze at the port, as a nearby building also burned around 2:30 pm local time Wednesday.

The cause of the fire remained unclear.

Russian forces are strangling the city on the Sea of Azov as they press forward in their war that began on 24 February.

Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine had accused Ukrainian forces of setting fire to the vessel as a “provocation” to “discredit the Russian military”.

There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian authorities on the blaze.

(AP)

11:55

Russian shelling a prelude to new eastern offensive — UK intelligence

Britain’s defence ministry says Russia is bombarding infrastructure targets to wear down Ukraine’s government and military as it prepares for a renewed assault on the country’s east.

It says Russia is targeting the “line of control” between Ukrainian-held areas in the Donbas and those held by Russia-supporting separatists with artillery and airstrikes.

But, it adds, “Russian forces are likely to continue facing morale issues and shortages of supplies and personnel”.

11:24

Hungary ‘helping Putin’ in the war — Ukraine foreign ministry

Ukraine has accused Hungary of «helping Putin» in the war, a day after the country’s nationalist leader Viktor Orban said he was ready to break ranks with the EU and buy Russian gas in roubles.

Without mentioning Orban by name, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement that following Sunday’s election victory, Hungary’s ruling party was now moving to a «next step — to help Putin continue his aggression against Ukraine, the civilized world and Christian values». 

«The Hungarian leadership’s reluctance to acknowledge Russia’s undeniable responsibility for the Russian army’s atrocities… is designed to consciously strengthen Russia’s sense of impunity and encourage it to commit new atrocities against Ukrainians,» he went on.

Nikolenko said Hungary’s readiness to pay for Russian gas in roubles was a hostile move towards Ukraine, and undermined the EU’s common position.

«Ukrainians and Hungarians have centuries of historical, political, economic and cultural ties. Ukraine is home to about 150,000 Ukrainian Hungarians. At the same time, the logic that guides politicians in Budapest today, playing into Russia’s aggressive policies, is detrimental to both our peoples,» he added.

The spokesman described as «cynical» the Hungarian proposal to host peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. On Wednesday Viktor Orban suggested a meeting in Budapest with the leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany, and said he had spoken to Putin by phone and proposed «an immediate ceasefire».

Hungary has refused to allow shipments of arms across its territory to Ukraine, its northeastern neighbour, while Orban has also said his government would block any attempt by the EU to extend sanctions to Russian oil and gas.

«If Hungary really wants to help end the war, here’s how to do it: stop destroying unity in the EU, support new anti-Russian sanctions, provide military assistance to Ukraine, and not create additional sources of funding for Russia’s military machine,» Nikolenko said.

«It is never too late to get to the right side of history.»

10:20

Zelenskyy to meet EU’s von der Leyen in Kyiv on Friday — Ukraine presidency

President Zelenskyy will have talks in Kyiv on Friday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to a Ukrainian presidential spokesman.

Sergii Nykyforov said on national television that other details of the talks would not be announced for security reasons.

A European Union spokesman said on Tuesday that the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, would also travel to Kyiv this week with the Commission president.

(with Reuters)

For a summary of Wednesday’s developments, click here.

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