By Javier Otazu
United Nations, Apr 5 (EFE).- Ukraine’s president said Tuesday in an emotional speech to the United Nations Security Council via video call that the UN’s most powerful body has proven impotent to halt Russian aggression in his homeland, a conflict that has now entered its seventh week and displaced a fourth of the nation’s population.
In his remarks from Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that the Council expel Russia (one of its five permanent members) or carry out an overhaul that would allow it to override Moscow’s veto power.
If the war is allowed to continue, then countries will rely only on the power of their own forces to guarantee their security and not on international law or international institutions, he said.
Adding more drama to his speech, Zelenskyy showed a video with images of handcuffed, charred or half-buried corpses in what appeared to be mass graves in the cities of Bucha, Mariupol and Irpin.
But Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, denied that Russian soldiers had carried out those massacres and attributed them to “radical Ukrainians” backed by “criminals, thieves and foreigners” bearing weapons provided to Ukraine by Western nations.
The United Arab Emirates’ permanent representative to the UN, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, warned for her part against the danger of “falling into a war of narratives,” a reference to the different pictures of the conflict presented by either Russia or Ukraine and its Western allies.
Because of the veto power of permanent members of the Security Council, that body has been unable to approve a single resolution on the armed conflict in Ukraine and its sessions have turned into wars of words between Russia and Western countries.
Asian nations such as China and India have stayed out of the fray for the most part.
The UN’s undersecretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, American diplomat Rosemary Di Carlo, told the Council after recounting numerous documented attacks on civilians in Ukraine that the longer the war lasts the greater the risk of a further weakening of global institutions and the mechanisms set up to preserve peace and security.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said of the images of civilians killed in Bucha that an independent probe is needed to ensure accountability, a proposal that was supported by most members of the 15-member Council.
China, which has refrained from criticizing Russia during Council sessions, stressed the need to hold those responsible for the atrocities in Bucha to account.
But Beijing also has emphasized the need to avoid making unfounded accusations and “drawing hasty conclusions,” a more cautious approach that contrasts with the generalized condemnation of Moscow.
The United States announced Monday that it is backing a team of international prosecutors and experts that will help the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s war crimes unit collect, preserve and analyze evidence of atrocities in Bucha and other parts of Ukraine since Russia’s military operation began on Feb. 24.
“We are tracking and documenting atrocities and sharing information with institutions working to hold responsible those accountable,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.
Separately, the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Monday that she would seek Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council.
On Tuesday, she said Moscow’s presence in that organization “hurts the Council’s credibility.”
In its retort, Russia said it hopes “our colleagues in the United Nations don’t allow themselves to be manipulated by Washington in these dangerous games.”
Prosecutors from the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, are currently investigating alleged war crimes in Ukraine, although due to the nature of the ICC’s work no results are expected in the short term. EFE