Addressing a meeting of the United Nations Security Council remotely on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the alleged atrocities uncovered in recent days as Russian troops moved out of areas in northern Ukraine.
“The most terrible war crimes we’ve seen since the end of World War II are being committed,” Zelenskyy told the council assembled in New York City, later arguing that “Russia wants to turn Ukraine into silent slaves.”
Zelenskyy proposed a tribunal for Russians who ordered or carried out war crimes similar to the Nuremberg trials in the years directly following the second world war.
Ukrainian authorities and journalists have seen evidence of widespread civilian casualties in Bucha, a suburban area northwest of Kyiv. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the casualties as evidence of “a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape” ― not “the random act of a rogue unit.”
President Joe Biden on Monday called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be held accountable for the violence, which he described as a war crime.
Russia has repeatedly asserted that the violence was committed after its forces left the region. Blinken, however, said Tuesday that reports of atrocities committed by the Russians are “more than credible.”
“I’m addressing you on behalf of the memory of the deceased,” Zelenskyy told the U.N. council. “They died suffering.”
He alleged that Russian troops searched for and killed “anyone who served our country,” including entire families, executing many people in the street. Other people were thrown in wells, Zelenskyy claimed, and some had their limbs or tongues removed. Photographs showed that some of the dead had their hands tied behind their backs.
The world has yet to see the full extent of the brutality, Zelenskyy added.
The Russians’ behavior is “no different than ISIS,” Zelenskyy said. “And here it is done by a member of the United Nations Security Council.”
The Ukrainian leader condemned the group, whose permanent members include the Russian Federation, for not doing more to end the conflict. He proposed three options: Remove Russia from the security council, reform the council, or dissolve it completely.
Citing what he called Ukraine’s “moral right” to propose reforms, Zelenskyy argued that Russia’s veto power makes the council worthless in fulfilling its main purpose of peacekeeping.
There is currently no process for removing a member of the security council.
“Accountability must be inevitable,” Zelenskyy said.
The Ukrainian delegation sent a video to be played following the president’s remarks, but technical issues prevented it from being shown immediately afterward.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield subsequently announced that the U.S. would seek to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council, noting that Russia has used false allegations of human rights abuses on the part of Ukraine to justify its invasion.