Ukraine: Zelensky calls on the UN to act immediately in the face of “Russian war crimes”

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KRAMATORSK | Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday urged the UN to act “immediately” against Russia in view of its “war crimes” committed according to him in Ukraine, calling in particular for its exclusion from the Security Council, while Moscow denies any accusation of atrocities.

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After the shock wave caused by the discovery last weekend of numerous corpses in Boutcha, near Kyiv, where Ukraine accuses the Russians of massacre, the European Union and Washington have also intensified their economic and diplomatic pressure against Russia in the hope of making it let go.

“Now we need Security Council decisions for peace in Ukraine,” Mr. Zelensky said in a solemn address by video broadcast live in the Security Council Chamber in New York.

He asked the UN to hold Russia “responsible” for its “war crimes” perpetrated according to him in Ukraine since its invasion on February 24.

For that, he added, Russia must be excluded from the Security Council, of which it is one of the five permanent members with the right of veto, or the UN system must be reformed so that “the right of veto does not does not mean the right to die”.

The Ukrainian president then had a video broadcast to the Security Council showing very raw images of people killed in Ukraine.

These are “appalling images,” said British Ambassador Barbara Woodward, saying she was “scandalized”. Several bodies or body parts appeared on these images, on a sound background accentuating the dramatization of the video.

The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, again disputed the accusations of atrocities targeting the Russian army. “We did not come to Ukraine to conquer territories,” he said.

Moscow accuses the Ukrainian authorities of preparing “stagings” of civilians killed in several cities to condemn the Kremlin.

Russian diplomats expelled

After France and Germany on Monday, Italy, Spain and Slovenia in turn expelled Russian diplomats en masse on Tuesday, marking a further deterioration in relations with Moscow after the discovery of dozens of corpses near Kyiv. In total, nearly 200 Russian diplomats were expelled from Europe in 48 hours.

On the economic sanctions front, which have rained down on Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine, the US Treasury announced on Tuesday that it no longer allows Russia to repay its debt with dollars held in US banks.

Britain has frozen $350 billion in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “war chest”, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday in Warsaw.

The European Union has for its part promised new sanctions “this week” against Russia. The European Commission has proposed that the Twenty-Seven cease their purchases of Russian coal, which represents 45% of EU imports, and that they close their ports to ships operated by Russians.

On Twitter, the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba, called on the European Union to impose on Moscow “the mother of all sanctions” in order to “prevent “new Boutchas””. “Stop buying oil, gas and coal from Russia. Stop funding Vladimir Putin’s war machine, he added.

Mykhaylo Podoliak, adviser to Mr. Zelensky, called on Europe to give “heavy weapons today” to Ukraine.

“Crucial phase”

In the military theater, several bombings hit Kramatorsk overnight from Monday to Tuesday, a large city controlled by Kyiv in eastern Ukraine, a region where the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says it expects an “offensive” of the “enemy” with a view to taking “control of the entire Lugansk and Donetsk regions”.

“We know that the Russians are strengthening and preparing to attack,” an officer told AFP, referring in particular to an increase in Russian helicopter flights over the front, usually heralding a large-scale attack. .

After the recent withdrawal of Russian troops besieging Kyiv and its region, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg felt that Russia was strengthening itself to “take control of the whole of Donbass”, in the east of Ukraine, and build “a land bridge with Crimea”, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

“We are in a crucial phase of the war,” he warned, saying he feared the discovery of “other atrocities” committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Since Monday Russia has denied any responsibility in the “massacre” of which Kyiv accuses it in Boutcha.

But for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “all the signs point to the fact that the victims [de Boutcha] were deliberately targeted and killed directly. And this evidence is very disturbing.”

Satellite images of the city released by US firm Maxar Technologies on Monday also appear to refute Russian claims that the bodies of people in civilian clothes found in Boutcha were placed there after Russian troops evacuated the area.

1.2 billion people affected

On Saturday, AFP had seen in Boutcha the corpses of at least 22 people wearing civilian clothes in the streets of the city. One of them was lying near a bicycle and another had shopping bags next to her. A corpse had its hands tied behind its back.

In the liberated city, a resident told AFP that she had seen “in front of [ses] eyes” of members of the Russian forces shooting “at a man who was going to get food from the supermarket”.

According to the mayor of Boutcha, Anatoly Fedorouk, 280 people had to be buried by Ukrainians in recent days in “mass graves” in Boutcha.

The EU announced that the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell would travel “this week” to Kyiv to meet Mr. Zelensky there.

In the south-east, Mariupol has “exceeded the stage of a humanitarian disaster”, Vadim Boïtchenko, the mayor of this large port besieged by the Russian army, told AFP on Tuesday, describing the situation as “unlivable”. some 120,000 inhabitants still in place.

The city, which had nearly half a million inhabitants before the war, is “90% destroyed”, Mr Boitchenko announced on Monday.

Seven humanitarian corridors are planned for Tuesday to continue to evacuate as best they can civilians still stranded in the city, said Iryna Vereshchuk, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine.

According to the latest count from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 4.24 million Ukrainian refugees have fled their country since February 24.

Europe has not seen such a flood of refugees since the Second World War, and some 90% of them are women and children, the Ukrainian authorities not allowing the departure of men of childbearing age. weapons.

In total, the war in Ukraine has consequences in 74 developing countries, affecting 1.2 billion people “particularly vulnerable to soaring food, energy and fertilizer prices”, said Tuesday the general secretary of the UN, Antonio Guterres.

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