War, day 43: After Bucha, Russia is removed from the UN Human Rights Council

Russia is carrying out a planned withdrawal from the Kyiv capital area, while NATO foreign ministers continue discussions in Brussels on what else the Alliance can do to support Ukraine.

The UN General Assembly on Thursday removed Russia from its seat on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva over the invasion of Ukraine.

Ninety-three countries backed the proposal, initiated by the United States, after the atrocities in the Ukrainian city of Bucha became known. Twenty-four countries voted against it. 58 abstained, but their votes were not taken into account, as the procedure requires a two-thirds majority of the votes in favor and against.

Russia is the second country to be removed from the UN human rights agency since Libya’s removal in 2011. Libya was removed in March 2011 for “gross and systematic human rights violations” in suppressing anti-government protests by Muammar Gaddafi. Its membership was restored in November of that year.

The UN Human Rights Council is an international human rights body that assists the UN General Assembly. The decision will deprive Russia of the right to vote and speak, although its diplomats have the right to attend the debate. The Council may decide to conduct investigations into human rights violations in Ukraine.

With 100: 0 votes, the US Senate voted to ban the import of Russian oil

The US Senate imposed additional economic restrictions on Russia in connection with the invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, voting unanimously to abolish the “most-favored-nation” trade status for Russia and its ally Belarus. Separately, the import of oil from Russia was banned.

The Senate voted 100-0 in favor of both measures. The two bills are now going to the House of Representatives, where they are expected to be adopted later Thursday. The next step will be the White House, where President Joe Biden must sign them for them to take effect.

Moscow has banned Australian politicians from visiting it

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it had banned 228 members of the Australian government and lawmakers, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, from responding to Canberra’s sanctions on the war in Ukraine.

They are not allowed to visit Russia. Earlier, the Kremlin banned US lawmakers, White House officials, and President Joe Biden from entering the country.

The G7 has banned key investments in Russia

Leaders of the world’s seven largest economies, the G7, have decided to ban new investments in “key areas” of the Russian economy, the group said in a statement on Thursday.

“We (the leaders of the G-7) are banning new investments in key areas of the Russian economy, including the energy sector,” said a statement from heads of state and government in the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, and Italy, France and Canada.

The G7 “will continue to exclude Russian banks from the global financial system” and will increase pressure on the Russian economy by imposing additional sanctions on state-owned companies.

The G-7 also noted that it would continue to take restrictive measures against representatives of “Russian elites and their relatives.” The statement also noted the G7’s readiness to take further action against Russia’s military-industrial complex.

The European Parliament has called for a full energy embargo on Russia

The European Parliament has called for a full embargo on crude oil, gas, and coal imports from Russia in a resolution adopted in Strasbourg on Thursday by 513 votes to 22, with 19 abstentions.

On Monday, 207 MEPs, including five Bulgarians, called for even tougher sanctions against Moscow, including an energy embargo.

This must be accompanied by a plan to ensure the security of the energy supply for the EU, as well as a strategy to “lift sanctions one by one” if Russia takes steps to restore Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and completely withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine, “the document said.

MEPs also urge member states to stop cooperating with Russian companies on existing and new nuclear projects, including in Finland, Hungary, and Bulgaria, where Russian experts can be replaced by Western ones, and to phase out Rosatom’s services.

MEPs demand that Russia be excluded from the G20 and other international organizations and that sanctions already imposed be “fully and effectively implemented across the EU and by the EU’s international allies as a matter of priority”.

To increase the effectiveness of sanctions, parliament calls for Russian banks to be excluded from the SWIFT system, for all Russian-related vessels to be banned from entering EU territorial waters and moored in EU ports, and for ban road haulage to and from the territory of Russia and Belarus. MEPs also demand the seizure of “all assets belonging to Russian officials or oligarchs linked to the Putin regime, their intermediaries and deputies, as well as those in Belarus linked to the Lukashenko regime”.

Citing Belarus’ involvement in the war in Ukraine, the resolution calls for sanctions against Belarus to be equivalent to those imposed on Russia, to eliminate any loopholes that allow Putin to use Lukashenko’s aid to circumvent sanctions.

Arms supplies must continue and increase, MEPs say.

Former Germans have filed a lawsuit against Putin for war crimes

Two former German ministers have asked the federal prosecutor’s office to launch an investigation into war crimes against Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, the Associated Press reported.

Sabine Leutheuser-Schnarenberger and Gerhart Baum, a former justice and home affairs minister respectively, said on Thursday that they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity provided by German law to prosecute serious crimes committed abroad to face justice. those they believe are responsible for atrocities in Ukraine.

Earlier this year, a high-ranking Syrian official became the first person convicted in Germany of crimes against humanity after the so-called “universal jurisdiction” rule was applied.

Lawyer Nikolaos Gazeas, who filed the 140-page lawsuit on behalf of the two former ministers, said it was aimed not only at President Putin’s administration and members of Russia’s Security Council but also at “many Russian military officials.”

The crimes, described in detail in the lawsuit, ranged from an attack on a nuclear power plant to the bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, he said.

According to Gazeas, although the International Criminal Court has already launched an investigation into possible war crimes, it makes sense to have complementary investigations in other jurisdictions.

German intelligence has intercepted talks about the killing of civilians in Bucha

German Federal Intelligence (BND) has intercepted talks between the Russian military, in which they discuss the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha near Kyiv. This is what SPIEGEL writes, but the text is available free of charge only to subscribers to the magazine or through other German, Russian, and other European publications.

The services also believe that mercenaries from the private military company Wagner, known for their missions in Syria, Libya, and many other sub-Saharan countries and, since the beginning of the Donbas crisis, Ukraine, may have been involved.

According to SPIEGEL, the intelligence informed the Bundestag on April 6. Among the materials in the report sent to the deputies are recordings of intercepted conversations. In one, a military man tells another that he was involved in the murder of a man on a bicycle. Another statement said a civilian should be questioned first and then killed. According to records, the killings may have taken place elsewhere than in Bucha, such as Mariupol.

German intelligence concludes that the killings of civilians (which Russia says are staged) are not an incident, but may be part of a “clear strategy” to “intimidate the civilian population and suppress resistance.”

SPIEGEL goes further: it claims that it is not about “arbitrary, episodic actions, nor the work of individual soldiers out of control.” Sources in the German magazine see the records as an indication that the servicemen “talk about atrocities as if they were talking about their daily lives.”

The Kremlin has acknowledged that Putin’s daughters have been sanctioned

The Russian presidency confirmed for the first time in comments on the latest sanctions imposed by the United States on the war in Ukraine that the daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin are on the updated blacklist.

Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova have so far been mentioned in media reports as the daughters of the Russian leader, but he has never confirmed their identities. Putin insists on the privacy of his private life and that of his family.

However, with his comments, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, actually admitted that it was Tikhonova and Vorontsova who was Putin’s daughters (they were also identified in this way by the Ministry of Finance).

“Of course, we believe that in the first place, these sanctions are in themselves a continuation of this insane line of imposing various restrictions,” Peskov told Russian media. “But in any case, the continuing line of application of any restrictions on family members – this speaks for itself. It is unlikely that such steps, such approaches need any evaluation. This is difficult to understand and explain.

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