May 18. 2024. 4:05

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UN chief decries ‘massive’ rights violations in Russia’s war on Ukraine

Moscow’s military launched new drone attacks on Ukraine as United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres said Russia’s invasion of its neighbour had “triggered the most massive violations of human rights” in the world today.

Heavy fighting continued in parts of eastern Ukraine as opponents of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko claimed to have used drones to badly damage a high-tech Russian surveillance plane at an airfield in Belarus, which is a close ally of the Kremlin.

Ukrainian officials said two emergency workers were killed and three other people injured when explosive drones struck the city of Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine in the early hours of Monday. The country’s military said air defence units had shot down 11 of 14 Iranian-made drones fired by Russia, including nine over the Kyiv region near the capital.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered the most massive violations of human rights we are living today,” Mr Guterres told the UN’s human rights council in Geneva.

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Bucha remembers: ‘I walked into the garden and found him lying there face down, where they had shot him’


UN chief decries ‘massive’ rights violations in Russia’s war on Ukraine

UN chief decries ‘massive’ rights violations in Russia’s war on Ukraine

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“It has unleashed widespread death, destruction and displacement” and “attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure have caused many casualties and terrible suffering”, he added.

Russia was suspended from the UN’s top human rights body after launching its full-scale attack on Ukraine a year ago, and subsequently withdrew from the council in protest.

[ Bucha remembers: ‘I walked into the garden and found him lying there face down, where they had shot him’ ]

The UN general assembly overwhelmingly backed a non-binding resolution last week that called on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine and work towards a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace” in the country. It was adopted with 141 votes in favour, 32 abstentions and votes against from only Russia and six of its allies, including Belarus.

After unconfirmed reports of explosions at the Machulishchy airbase in Belarus on Sunday night, anti-Lukashenko activist group Bypol said they had used drones to badly damage an advanced Russian Beriev A-50 spy plane on the tarmac.

“These were drones. The participants of the operation are Belarusians … who are now safely outside the country,” said Bypol’s leader Aliaksandr Azarov.

Exiled Belarusian pro-democracy leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on social media: “I am proud of all Belarusians who continue to resist the Russian hybrid occupation of Belarus and fight for the freedom of Ukraine. Your brave actions show the world that Belarus stands against imperial aggression. Glory to our heroes!”

Mr Lukashenko is expected to visit China this week as Beijing tries to become a key mediator in the Russia-Ukraine war, which has killed and injured more than 100,000 troops on each side, taken the lives of many thousands of Ukrainian civilians and displaced millions.

[ Will Russia’s ailing economy topple Putin before his military reversals? ]

Kyiv and western states say China cannot be regarded as a neutral party because it refuses to condemn Russia’s invasion, hails its deepening ties with the Kremlin and is allegedly considering sending weapons to Moscow’s military.

“I think this is something we watch very carefully. And I think … the Chinese weigh very carefully this issue. And we’ve certainly made very clear the seriousness of the consequences for our relationship, and I think for China’s relationship with our European allies as well,” said William Burns, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

“We’re confident that the Chinese leadership is considering the provision of lethal equipment. We also don’t see that a final decision has been made yet, and we don’t see evidence of actual shipments of lethal equipment,” he added, warning that it would “a very risky and unwise bet” by Beijing.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had “paid a lot of attention to our Chinese friends’ plan” after Beijing unveiled a broad ceasefire initiative for Ukraine, but added that “for now, we don’t see any of the conditions required to move this whole story towards peace”.