Russia quits UN human rights council moments after suspension

The United Nations General Assembly handed down a suspension to Russia on Thursday over findings of human rights abuses by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

The United Nations General Assembly has voted to suspend Russia from having a voice on the UN human rights council. It’s a move that will help the U.S. and 30 other countries to expedite the process of sending weapons to Ukraine. 

Out of the 193 voting members, 93 voted in favour, 24 countries voted against and 58 abstained. The last time such a suspension was issued was in 2011 against Libya, for its then violent and deadly repression of popular protest.

Sergiy Kyslytsya
Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN, Sergiy Kyslytsya. Photo: David Dee Delgardo

Shortly after the suspension, Russia announced they would be quitting the Human Rights Council with Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Gennady Kuzmin, claiming the suspension was an “illegitimate and politically motivated step,” Reuters reported.

The last country to quit the UN Human Rights Council was the USA, when Donald Trump spat the dummy and resigned in 2018, before now-President Joe Biden rejoined the council when he was elected.

There is strong evidence that Russia is behind more than 300 civilian deaths since the beginning of the invasion, leading to the original suspension from the body, despite Russia’s claims that the deaths were staged to discredit the Putin-led nation.

Before the vote, Russia cautioned that a yes vote or abstention would be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” which could have repercussions for all sides. 

Moscow is one of the most vocal members of the council and its suspension blocks it from speaking and voting. Diplomats are still able to attend meetings, but they are refrained from having any meaningful vocal input.

Speaking before the vote, Ukraine’s UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said a yes vote would “save the Human Rights Council and many lives around the world and in Ukraine,” but a no vote was “pulling a trigger, and means a red dot on the screen — red as the blood of the innocent lives lost.”

After abstaining from the previous two General Assembly votes against Russia, China finally spoke up and opposed the decision on Thursday. “Such a hasty move at the General Assembly, which forces countries to choose sides, will aggravate the division among member states, intensify the confrontation between the parties concerned — it is like adding fuel to the fire,” China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun said before the vote.

With the suspension now in place, Washington’s top diplomat US Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed to expedite arms deliveries, with the US and NATO to send more weapons systems to Ukraine.

Beseeched by Mr Kuleba to end prolonged delays, Blinken said “We’re not going to let anything stand in the way of getting Ukrainians what they need, and what we believe to be effective,” which means that the U.S. and 30 other countries can now with greater ease and expediency, send weaponry support to Ukraine.