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The UN Secretary-General blames Russia for “gross” rights violations in Ukraine

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had caused “the largest human rights abuses” in the world today.

The UN chief made the remarks at the UN-backed Human Rights Council in Geneva, as the war enters its second year with no end in sight and tens of thousands dead.

Guterres said the Russian invasion had “caused widespread killing, destruction and displacement”.

After failing to capture Kiev in the first weeks of the invasion on February 24 last year and suffering a series of humiliating setbacks through the fall, Russia has settled into the front and focused its efforts on capturing four provinces illegally annexed by Moscow in September—Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhia.

Meanwhile, Ukraine hopes to use battle tanks and other new weapons pledged by the West to launch new counterattacks and retake more occupied territory.

“The attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure have caused many casualties and horrific suffering,” Guterres said.

The intensity of the fighting on the ground in eastern Ukraine was sharply focused on Sunday at a Ukrainian field hospital treating wounded people from the fierce battle for control of the devastated city of Bakhmut. Exhausted and exhausted soldiers poured out on stretchers.

Anatoly, the head of the medical service, said that his team treats dozens of soldiers every day and he barely has time to eat.

“My medics work practically non-stop,” he told the Associated Press. “Before a mass invasion, we had 50-60 wounded on a nine-month rotation, and now we sometimes have (more than that) in a day.” Provide only one name for security reasons.

Guterres’ remarks came as Ukraine’s military said Russia launched explosive-laden drone attacks on several regions of the country that lasted from late Sunday into Monday morning, killing two people.

Rights violations

Guterres referred to cases of sexual violence, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and violations of the rights of prisoners of war documented by the United Nations Human Rights Office.

He decried how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, now 75 years old, has been “often misused and misused”.

“It is being exploited for political gain and is often ignored by the same people,” Guterres said. “Some governments are getting away with it, and some are using a wrecking ball.”

“This is a moment to get on the right side of history,” he told the Council, the UN’s highest human rights body. Russia withdrew from its seat last year amid mounting international pressure over the war in Ukraine.

Dozens of high-level envoys at the Geneva meeting – many of them from Western countries – criticized Russia for its handling of the war.

At the concurrent Conference on Disarmament, another UN-backed body, delegates criticized Putin’s decision to suspend Russia’s participation in the New START agreement with the United States, the last nuclear arms control agreement between Moscow and Washington.

However, Russian officials have shown little sign that they may be reconsidering their attack on their neighbors.

“We do not see any conditions for a peaceful settlement now,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council headed by President Vladimir Putin, has taken it a step further, once again raising the specter of nuclear war and the nightmarish outcome of Europe’s largest and bloodiest conflict since World War II.

Russia’s existential threat

He berated the United States and its allies for providing military and other support to Ukraine to help push back the Kremlin’s forces. He claimed that their long-term goal is to break up Russia.

“They have insane illusions that, having wiped out the Soviet Union without a single shot, they can bury today’s Russia without any major problems for themselves simply by throwing away thousands of lives in the conflict,” he said.

“It’s a very serious mistake, and it won’t work like it did with the Soviet Union.”

Putin has also coined the war in these terms, saying it poses an existential threat to Russia.

In Sunday’s and Monday’s attacks, the Ukrainian General Staff said Kiev forces shot down 11 out of 14 Iranian-made Shahed drones.

Ukraine’s presidential office said on Monday that at least two civilians have been killed and nine others wounded in Russian attacks over the past 24 hours.

It said heavy fighting continued around Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Vohlidar in the Donetsk region, which has been subjected to relentless Russian bombing.

Ukraine’s military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that Russia’s offensive aimed at securing control of eastern Ukraine has effectively stalled while losing “huge numbers of weapons and ammunition”.

Zhdanov said the Ukrainian army, in turn, was amassing forces for a future counterattack in the south, while bombing Russian positions and warehouses there.

He said that “Ukraine has greatly intensified the bombing of Russian positions in the south, destroying roads and warehouses, which is an important condition for the success of the counterattack in the future.”

In other developments, the Russian military claimed that its forces bombed an electronic intelligence center near Brovary, east of Kiev.

The Russian Defense Ministry also said that Russian forces bombed a special operations center of the Ukrainian armed forces near the western city of Khmelnytskyi.

The ministry did not say when the strikes began and its claim could not be independently verified.

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