Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russian forces of atrocities at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council and told senior diplomats the institution needed to be reformed so the world could hold Moscow to account.
“There’s not a single crime they’re not committing there,” Mr. Zelensky said during a virtual appearance at the council chamber in New York. “Some of them were shot in the streets, others were thrown into wells, so they died there in pain.”
“Civilians were run over by tanks as they sat in their cars in the middle of the road,” Mr Zelensky said. “Women have been raped and killed in front of their children.”
Mr Zelensky said more than 300 civilians had been tortured or killed in the town of Bucha, prompting Western leaders to launch a broad investigation into alleged war crimes and impose new sanctions on Moscow amid international outrage grows.
The Security Council has not taken action against Russia because Moscow, as a permanent member, exercises a veto power which it has used to block binding resolutions on Ukraine.
Mr Zelensky said Russia should be removed from the Security Council, or the council should otherwise be dissolved.
“The UN system must be reformed immediately so that the right to veto is not the right to die,” Zelensky said. “There can be no more exceptions or privileges.”
Western diplomats see no path to Russia’s exclusion from the Security Council. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she would help organize a vote to suspend Russia’s participation in the UN Human Rights Council, a body that has no no coercive powers.
Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya dismissed reports of civilians killed in Bucha as a “provocation” by Ukraine. Mr Nebenzya accused the UK ambassador, who chairs the Security Council this month, of failing to schedule a timely meeting on what Moscow claims was a fabricated attempt to attribute the civilian deaths to the Russian forces. UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward said she followed council protocols in offering meetings to the Russian side, but they were not accepted.
“They will blame everyone else just to justify their own actions,” Mr Zelensky said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the meeting that the war in Ukraine is one of the greatest challenges ever to the international order.
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, has publicly acknowledged reports of civilians being killed in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, as well as the arbitrary detention and possible enforced disappearance of Ukrainian civilians who resisted the Russian occupation.