U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a speech Monday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had triggered “the most massive violations of human rights” in the world today.
Guterres made the assertion while speaking to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Russia has been concentrating its military strategy upon capturing four provinces in the Donbas on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia: Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Earlier this month, video surfaced of a mass grave in Mariupol, a city in Donetsk Oblast where Russia has reportedly exterminated an estimated 75,000 Ukrainian civilians in that city alone, and has been working to cover up its war crimes there, tearing down bombed-out buildings at a rate of at least one a day, and hauling away human bodies with the debris.
Guterres on Monday said, “Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure have caused many casualties and terrible suffering.”
He cited cases of sexual violence, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and violations of the rights of prisoners of war documented by the Human Rights Council.
Without specifying Russia, the Secretary-General went on to accuse “some governments” of having “exploited for political gain” the United Nations’ 75-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“This is a moment to stand on the right side of history,” he said in Geneva.
Many on the council, meanwhile, lashed out at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement last week that he was suspending participation in the 2010 START nuclear arms limitation treaty following President Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine.
Guterres’ assertions came one day after reports of Russian forces, including mercenaries from the Russian-backed Wagner Group, were pushing forward in the Donbas city of Bakhmut—and met with resistance from Ukraine’s tank units.
Russia withdrew from its seat on the Human Rights Council last year amid a deluge of international pressure over the war in Ukraine. Moscow was not represented at Monday’s meeting, and its top envoy to the session wasn’t expected to speak until Thursday.