Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of State, denounced Russia’s continued actions in Ukraine and suggested consequences from the United Nations (U.N.).
Speaking on Tuesday, Secretary Blinken told the U.N. Human Rights Council that Russian strikes in Ukraine “are hitting schools, hospitals, and residential buildings” resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians. In response, Blinken suggested that Russia be stripped of its Council membership on day six of the Russia-Ukraine war after President Vladimir Putin initiated an invasion of its neighboring country of Ukraine on February 24.
“They are destroying critical infrastructure, which provides millions of people across Ukraine with drinking water, gas to keep them from freezing to death, and electricity,” Blinken said in a video address. “Civilian buses, cars, and even ambulances have been shelled. Russia is doing this every day—across Ukraine.”
The U.N. Human Rights Council, as its name suggests, is a subgroup within the international organization dedicated to preserving human rights worldwide. It currently counts 47 countries as members, out of the 193 total countries that make up the U.N., including Russia. It has been criticized in the past for continuing to allow membership for countries, like China, accused of human rights violations.
Blinken’s comments on Tuesday echo previous claims from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when he accused Russia of war crimes over its assault on the city of Kharkiv. As noted in Blinken’s address, the Russian military’s tactics in Ukraine have become more aggressive in the last two days, with more civilians seemingly being targeted as opposed to strictly military infrastructure.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko reported on Tuesday that rocket strikes in Kharkiv had killed at least 10 people and injured a further 35. U.N. estimates put the total number of civilians killed in Ukraine at 104, with around 304 being injured. The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also reported that a government building in the city had been destroyed in a large explosion.
“The Russian military has shown a blatant disregard for civilian lives by using ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons with wide-area effects in densely-populated areas,” Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said in a statement. “Some of these attacks may be war crimes.”
In addition to the assaults in Kharkiv, reports indicated that Russia’s potential war crimes in Ukraine include the use of a vacuum bomb, an ordinance prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, as well as launching strikes near a kindergarten and a hospital.
“One can reasonably ask whether a U.N. member state that tries to take over another U.N. member state—while committing horrific human rights abuses and causing massive humanitarian suffering—should be allowed to remain on this Council,” Blinken added.