Ukrainian actions are akin to those of Nazi Germany, Russian Ambassador Gennady Gatilov charged at an urgent United Nations Human Rights Council debate Thursday on the eight-day-old war between the two countries.
When the Ukrainian regime seized power in a coup in 2014, Gatilov charged, “in the best traditions of Nazi Germany” it “set about destroying the Russian-speaking population of the country.”
He further alleged that “dozens of people were burned alive at the Trade Union House in Odessa.” There were, he charged, “snipers’ shooting of peaceful protesters” and “the brutal massacres of dissenters throughout Ukraine.”
The Russian-speaking people in the Donbas region of Ukraine fear extermination, he added.
Ukraine has rejected all such allegations, which Russian envoys and top diplomats have made at multiple UN forums. They have persistently compared the Ukrainian government to the Nazis, even though the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.
Ukraine has turned to the International Court of Justice the Hague to issue an advisory opinion against Russia’s accusations of genocide.
The international community has largely rejected those charges and has called on Russia to halt its invasion of Ukraine and to withdraw from its sovereign territory.
The UNHRC debate in Geneva was in advance of the passage of a resolution to open a one-year Commission of Inquiry into Russian human rights violations against Ukraine. The International Criminal Court has opened a war crimes probe on the situation in Ukraine.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet spoke to the UNHRC of the devastating impact of Russia’s invasion, which she said has displaced at least two million people.
“By Tuesday night, my Office had recorded and confirmed 752 civilian casualties, including 227 killed – 15 of them children. At least 525 have been injured, including 28 children” Bachelet said.
“Most civilian casualties were caused by the use of heavy artillery, multi-launch rocket systems and air strikes in populated areas, with concerning reports of use of cluster munitions striking civilian targets. Massive damage to residential buildings has been inflicted. The use of weapons with wide area effects in densely populated urban areas is inherently indiscriminate, and I call for the immediate cessation of such force,” she added.
Emine Dzhaparova, first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine spoke to the UNHRC from her country, where she said she was “alive but not safe.”
“Every day we witness both death and life, dignity and dishonor,” Dzhaparova. She described how doctors failed to save the life of a 16-year-old girl in her unicorn pajamas who had been hit by Russian shelling.
Russia has bombed hospitals, churches, orphanages, museums, television towers, schools and critical infrastructure, Dzhaparova said.
“This all happens in front of the world’s ‘eyes’ in front of its doors,” she said, recalling how she had fled Russian aggression in Crimea already in 2014 with a cat in a basket, her daughter and a car filled with clothes and books.
The only reason “this is taking place is because a group of war criminals with access to the nuclear bomb concluded that our people are too weak to resist and to fight and that the world would not care,” she stated.
Israel's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar told the UNHRC Israel called Russia's attack on Ukraine a "serious violation of the international order.
"We have condemned it, and will continue to do so. We call upon Russia to heed the calls of the international community to stop the attack and respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine," she said.
Israel is concerned by the high number of refugees that have fled the country and has provided humanitarian assistance to help alleviate the growing crisis in Ukraine, Eilon Shahar said adding that more aid would follow.
"Israel has long-standing and positive relations with both Russia and with Ukraine. Given our deep ties with both sides, we are willing to contribute to the diplomatic efforts if so requested and have been trying to do so in the last couple of weeks," she added.