UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Sunday for an independent investigation into the mass killings of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, in the suburbs of Kyiv. While the West has blamed Russian forces for the killings, the Russian Ministry of Defence has termed Ukrainian allegations as a false flag operation by the Ukrainian Army.
A special session of the United Nations Security Council was immediately called to meet on Monday at the request of Russia, and on Tuesday at the request of the US.
Mr. Guterres who spoke on Tuesday during the UN Security Council Meeting on Ukraine, made clear how shocked he was:
“The war has led to senseless loss of life, massive devastation in urban centres, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. I will never forget the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha. I immediately called for an independent investigation to guarantee effective accountability. I am also deeply shocked by the personal testimony of rapes and sexual violence that are now emerging.”
I regret the divisions that have prevented the Security Council from acting on Ukraine & other threats to peace.
Today I urged its member countries to do everything in their power to end the war and mitigate its impact on the people of Ukraine & beyond. pic.twitter.com/HQp9ktkdIe
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 5, 2022
To date, the Russian offensive has displaced more than 10 million people in just one month, the fastest forced population movement since the Second World War, Mr. Guterres said.
Given the urgency of the situation, Antonio Guterres assigned the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, to travel to Russia and Ukraine to press for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
The UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has condemned the events at Bucha and spoken of possible war crimes. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights explained that the events in Bucha marked a new low in the war.
“What we have seen emerging in Bucha and other areas, clearly points to a very disturbing development…All the signs are that the victims were directly targeted and directly killed,” said Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Russian defence ministry denied that Russian forces killed civilians in Bucha, saying that videos and photographs of bodies were “yet another provocation” by the Ukrainian government. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the facts and chronology of the events in Bucha did not support Ukraine’s version of events.
“We would demand that many international leaders do not rush to sweeping accusations and at least listen to our arguments,” he said. The foreign affairs Minister Lavrov himself intervened saying that “another fake attack was launched by Ukraine in the city of Bucha.” Konstantin Kosachev, deputy speaker of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, said there was “no doubt whatsoever that it was staged.”
Even China, usually very neutral in the Ukraine matter, pitched in. The reports and images showing civilian deaths in the Ukrainian city of Bucha are “deeply disturbing”, China’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Tuesday, but added that the circumstances should be verified and any accusations should be based on facts. “Attacks against civilians are unacceptable and should not occur,” Ambassador Zhang Jun said at the UN Security Council meeting.
Mr. Zhang Jun repeated Beijing’s position that sanctions are not effective in solving the Ukraine crisis, but instead are accelerating the economic spillover. He also called the United States, NATO and the European Union to engage in a dialogue with Russia.
China has come under increased pressure from Washington and Brussels to take a stance on the conflict, as its diplomats and state media play down civilian casualties and cast Putin as a victim of the U.S.-backed expansion of NATO.
Poland, on the other hand, traditionally weary of Russia, did not mince words. On Monday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for an international investigation into what he termed a “genocide” carried out by Russian troops in Ukraine, including in Bucha. Morawiecki also called for new Western sanctions against Russia and compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to autocrats from the past.
“Clear and determined sanctions are necessary. These sanctions are not working,” Morawiecki said.
Mr. Guterres added during the UN Security Council Meeting that beyond Ukraine’s borders and particularly in developing nations, the disruption to global supply chains caused by the war has prompted massive price hikes for food, energy and fertilisers, as Russia and Ukraine are major global producers.
“In the past month alone, wheat prices have increased by 22 per cent, maize by 21 per cent and barley by 31 per cent,” the Secretary-General said, adding that 74 developing countries with a total population of 1.2 billion people were “particularly vulnerable” to spiking food, energy and fertiliser costs.
The war is affecting many innocent lives and countries at risk, and a unified response from the international community is urgently needed.
“I urge the Council to do everything in its power to end the war and to mitigate its impact, both on the suffering people of Ukraine, and on vulnerable people and developing countries around the world,” concluded Mr. Guterres.
Zelensky spoke to the UN Security Council via video and said: “We are dealing with a State that is turning the veto of the United Nations Security Council into the right to die”, President Zelynskyy warned. If it continues, countries will rely not on international law or global institutions to ensure security, but rather, on the power of their own arms.
He accused Russia of wanting to “turn Ukrainians into silent slaves” and openly stealing everything, “starting with food and ending with gold earrings that are pulled out and covered with blood.”
He challenged the Council to either remove the Russian Federation as a source of war so it can no longer block decisions made about its own aggression, or simply “dissolve yourselves altogether” if there is nothing to do other than engage in conversation. “Are you ready to close the United Nations? Do you think that the time for international law is gone?” he asked.
“Ukraine needs peace. Europe needs peace. The world needs peace,” he insisted.
The UNSC has not decided anything final yet.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. In the Featured Photo: TUN Photo/Loey Felipe.Featured Photo Credit: