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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in an emotionally charged address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday accused Russian troops of indiscriminately killing civilians “just for their pleasure”, before questioning the very mandate of the Security Council .
Zelensky’s speech came a day after he visited the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, where shocking images of bodies surfaced in the streets over the weekend.
On Tuesday, he described in horrifying detail the aftermath of Russia’s retreat from the city, describing entire families killed, people slitting their throats, and women raped and murdered in front of their children. Zelensky said Russia’s action was no different from that of a terrorist group, except that Russia is a permanent member of the UNSC.
The Ukrainian leader then criticized the body, asking delegates to point blank: “Where is the security to guarantee the Security Council? It is not there, although the Security Council is.”
Zelensky said: “It is clear that the world’s premier institution cannot function effectively to counter aggression and ensure peace.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to remind you of Article 1, Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter. What is the purpose of our organization? Its purpose is to maintain and ensure the peace. And now the United Nations Charter is violated literally Article 1 And so what do all the other articles mean?” He asked.
At least 1,480 civilians have been killed and at least 2,195 injured in Ukraine between February 24 and the start of the Russian offensive, a UN official said at the meeting, citing updated numbers from the Office of the High Commissioner for Humanity. said. Rights (OHCHR). The latest figures for the number of Ukrainian civilians in the conflict were “more than double” since the last briefing to the UNSC on 17 March.
In Buka, bodies scattered on streets and in basements were found by human rights groups and documented by independent journalists. Satellite images show that some of the bodies were there since at least March 18.
In his damning speech, Zelensky said that there was “not a single crime” that the Russians “did not commit,” alleging that Russian troops “searched for and intentionally killed anyone who served our country.”
“They shot and killed women outside their homes when they tried to call someone … they killed whole families, adults and children, and they tried to burn the bodies,” Zelensky said.
He told the UNSC, “I am addressing you on behalf of those who honor the memory of the deceased every day and in memory of the civilians who were killed after being tortured and shot in the back of their heads.” Was.” ,
“Some of them were shot on the streets. Others were thrown into wells, so they died there. They were killed in their apartments, houses, blown up by grenades. People sitting in their cars in the middle of the road were crushed by tanks, just for their pleasure,” he continued. “Women were raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongue was taken out only because the attacker didn’t hear what they wanted to hear from them.”
Zelensky also warned that the horrors found in Buka would be repeated in other cities in Ukraine. Seeking accountability, he called for any Russians who have given “criminal orders” and “fulfilled them by killing our people” to be brought before a tribunal, similar to the Nuremberg trials that took place after World War II. When the Nazis were prosecuted.
Separately, the United Nations said on Tuesday that Buka’s shocking images showed “all signs” that civilians were “directly targeted and directly killed.”
In a virtual press briefing, OHCHR spokeswoman Liz Throsel said the reports coming in from Buka and other regions were “very disturbing incidents”.
They specifically made reference to “disturbing” images of men with their hands tied behind their backs and of partially naked women whose bodies have been burned, which are intended to target individuals directly. suggest.
“We are talking about war crimes in terms of shelling, bombing and artillery attacks. Now they should be investigated. But you could argue that there was a military reference, for example, to a building being hit. It is difficult to see what the military context was of a man lying on the street with a shot in the head or with their body burned,” Throsell continued.
Since the OHCHR is currently trying to gain access to Buka, it did not have “accurate information” to share about the situation on the ground.
Throsell also paid tribute to the “critical role” that journalists are playing in documenting these scenes, noting the “multiple teams” involved in “reporting, analyzing and sending video footage”.
Russia has repeatedly denied the alleged atrocities, despite the evidence mounting. Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzia responded to Zelensky’s remarks, calling the allegations against the Russian military “baseless”.
“We at your discretion make baseless allegations against the Russian military, which have not been confirmed by any eyewitnesses,” Nebenzia said in the translated remarks.
The ambassador recalled Zelensky’s election to the Ukrainian presidency in 2019, saying that the hope that Zelensky would end fighting in Ukraine’s Donbass region “failed to materialize.”
Nebenzia also reiterated previous claims that “an enormous amount of lies about Russian soldiers and the military” continue to circulate.
Addressing Zelensky directly, Nebenzia concluded her remarks by claiming Russia had “came … Ukraine” to bring about peace, not “conquer the land”.
Nebenzia’s words echoed those of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier Tuesday, who called the allegations not only “baseless, but … a well-staged tragic show” and “a forgery to try to discredit the Russian military.” ” said.