Russia's isolation deepens as UN suspension vote looms

Russia-hosted talks on unsubstantiated claims of US bioweapons labs in Ukraine struggled to attract attendees

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Russia was increasingly isolated at the UN on Wednesday over claims that its forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, facing a vote over its removal from the world body’s human rights chamber.

The UN General Assembly is scheduled to vote on Thursday on suspending Moscow from the UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council, amid mounting evidence that Russian troops deliberately murdered civilians in northern Ukraine.

The impending vote was confirmed as Russian diplomats on Wednesday hosted poorly attended UN talks focussed on unsubstantiated claims about US-funded bioweapons laboratories in Ukraine.

The vote comes amid global outrage over shocking scenes of civilian killings in areas of Ukraine recently recaptured from Russian forces, like Bucha, outside the capital Kyiv, including people apparently executed with their hands zip-tied behind their backs.

Washington’s UN ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia’s presence on the rights council “undermines the entire UN” and “is just plain wrong” and that governments should “come together to do what is right”, she added.

A suspension from the rights council requires support from two-thirds of voting countries in the 193-nation General Assembly. That body has twice voted to censure Russian aggression since it sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

The roughly 140 votes against Russia in those two polls exceeded the two-thirds threshold required for a suspension, but it remains unclear whether UN members would back the more drastic step of ejecting Moscow from the rights council.

Moscow has denied attacking civilians in an offensive that it said is necessary to prevent the eastward expansion of the Nato military alliance. Evidence from Bucha is a “horrific provocation”, staged by Ukrainian forces, said Russia’s UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya.

Making their case

Moscow on Wednesday hosted informal UN Security Council talks where Russian officials shared unsubstantiated claims about discoveries of US-funded biological weapon testing laboratories in Ukraine.

British officials “listened carefully to Russia’s allegations about biological weapons” at two previous UN meetings and deemed them unreliable, a spokesman for the UK mission to the UN told The National.

“We assessed them to have no credible basis, as did the UN,” said the spokesman.

“So we did not think we would learn anything credible whatsoever from Russia’s proposed briefers today.”

Updated: April 06, 2022, 3:42 PM