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Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in Bucha, Kyiv in Ukraine yesterday. RONALDO SCHEMIDT/Getty
russian invasion

Zelenskyy calls on UN Security Council to expel Russia or dissolve itself over Bucha killings

Zelenskyy will also address both houses of the Oireachtas tomorrow morning.

LAST UPDATE | 5 Apr 2022

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelenskyy challenged the United Nations to “act immediately” or “dissolve yourself altogether” during a blistering address in which he showed harrowing footage of dead Ukrainians – including children – he said were victims of Russian atrocities.

Ukrainian officials say over 400 civilian bodies have been recovered from the Kyiv region, many of whom have been laid to rest in mass graves.

But Ukraine has warned that the deaths in Bucha could be only the tip of the iceberg, saying even more people had been killed in places like nearby Borodianka.

Likening Russia’s actions in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities to violence carried out by “terrorists” such as the so-called Islamic State, Zelenskyy called on the 15-member Security Council – which aims to ensure international peace and security – to expel Russia “so it cannot block decisions about its own aggression, its own war.”

Russia is one of the five permanent members of the Council, meaning it has a veto which it has repeatedly wielded to block resolutions and negotiations on the global stage.

That means it cannot be expelled from the body, as it would simply veto any vote or recommendation by the Security Council to do so.

“If there is no alternative… then the next option would be dissolve yourself altogether,” Zelenskyy continued.

“Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to close the UN? … If your answer is no, then you need to act immediately.”

Bucha had been occupied by Russian troops, but when they withdrew on 30 March, Ukrainian authorities and independent international journalists including AFP found bodies of people in civilian clothing, some with their hands tied behind their backs.

There has been international outrage over the atrocities, but uncertainty on what is the most appropriate way to respond. 

Graphic video shown to UN

russia-ukraine-war-united-nations Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via remote feed during a meeting of the UN Security Council. John Minchillo John Minchillo

To ensure his message hit home, Zelenskyy aired a graphic, 90-second clip of what he said were images from towns including Bucha and the southern port of Mariupol.

The footage showed partially uncovered dead people, including children, in shallow graves, several bodies in a courtyard and dead people with hands tied behind their back slumped towards a wall.

“Now the world can see what the Russian military did in Bucha,” Zelenskyy told the UN.

They were killed in their apartments, houses, blowing up grenades, civilians were crushed by tanks while sitting in their cars in the middle of the road, just for their pleasure. They cut off limbs… slashed their throats.

“Women were raped and killed in front of their children, their tongues were pulled out only because the aggressors did not hear what they wanted to hear from them,” he said.

“This is no different from other terrorists such as Daesh … and here it is done by a member of the United Nations Security Council,” he said, using another acronym for the Islamic State group.

“Accountability must be inevitable,” he said, claiming that “hundreds of thousands” of Ukrainians had also been deported to Russia.

Ireland’s permanent representative to the UN Geraldine Byrne Nason said that any attempts to deny Russian responsibility for the civilian deaths in Bucha “are appalling in their cynicism”. 

“We here cannot suspend our humanity. 
“The Russian authorities are responsible for these authorities committed while they were in control of the region.”

“We call on the Russian Federation to stop this war. To stop destabilising the democratic foundations of the Ukrainian state. It gets harder and harder to say this, but it is not to late to do the right thing.”

Russia has denied responsibility and falsely suggested the images are fake or that the deaths occurred after its forces pulled out of the area. Satellite photographs taken by Maxar Technologies in mid-March, before the Russian withdrawal, showed what appear to be bodies in the same places they were later found by Ukrainian troops and seen by journalists.

Yesterday, wearing body armour and visibly distressed, Zelenskyy spent half an hour in Bucha, where he blamed Russian troops for the killings.

“These are war crimes and it will be recognised by the world as genocide,” he said.

Authorities say at least 5,000 people have been killed in the port city of Mariupol, 90% of which has been destroyed, according to mayor Vadim Boichenko.

Europe’s worst conflict in decades, sparked by Russia’s invasion on 24 February, has killed as many as 20,000 people, according to Ukrainian estimates.

More than 4.2 million Ukrainians have fled the country and about 6.5 million have been internally displaced, UN agencies say.

Zelenskyy is to address both houses of the Oireachtas tomorrow morning at 10am. 

Ireland is one of the 15 members of the UN Security Council for the next two years – with it’s term running out at the end of this year. 

© AFP 2022, with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha.

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