UN to vote on Russian bid to return to Human Rights Council

Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya( left) shuffles papers as he listens to Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, on Oct. 9, 2023, at United Nations headquarters.[VOA]

The United Nations General Assembly will hold a vote Tuesday on whether to allow Russia to rejoin the world body’s Human Rights Council, nearly two years after it ejected Moscow from the council following its invasion of Ukraine.

The Geneva-based council is made up of 47 nations with each nation taken from five regional groups. Russia, one of several nations seeking a three-year term on the Human Rights Council, is competing against Albania and Bulgaria for the two seats allotted to the East European region.

The General Assembly voted 93-24 to kick Russia off the Human Rights Council in April 2022, nearly two months after launching its war on Ukraine.

In remarks before the U.N. Security Council Monday, Albanian U.N. Ambassador Ferit Hoxha denounced Russia as “aggressors of their neighbors, killers of innocent people, deliberate destroyers of civilian infrastructure,” and that it takes pride in deporting children from their homes.

Deputy U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood told the Security Council that Moscow’s potential re-election to the Human Rights Council would be “an ugly stain” on that body while it “openly continues to commit war crimes and other atrocities.”

Tuesday’s vote comes just days after 52 people were killed in a Russian missile attack on the northeastern Ukrainian village of Hroza, one of the deadliest of the war. Ukrainian officials say the attack happened as people gathered in a cafe to mourn a fallen Ukrainian soldier.

United Nations investigators are in Hroza. The lead investigator said in a statement, “My initial conversations with local residents and survivors indicate that virtually all those killed were civilians and that the target itself, a busy village cafe and store, was also clearly civilian.”

Among the dead were the village leader, a couple who left behind four children and the dead soldier’s wife and son.

Ukraine-Middle East

Addressing the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy drew a parallel between the atrocities on civilian populations in Ukraine and those on the people of Israel.

“The only difference is that there is a terrorist organization that attacked Israel, and here is a terrorist state that attacked Ukraine,” he said and called for unity amid the crisis.

In a separate video address, Zelenskyy warned Russia is interested in triggering a war in the Middle East, “so that a new source of pain and suffering could undermine world unity, increase discord and contradictions, and thus help Russia destroy freedom in Europe.”

“We see Russian propagandists gloating. We see Moscow's Iranian friends openly supporting those who attacked Israel. And all of this is a much greater threat than the world currently perceives,” he added.

In an exclusive interview with the Ukrainian service of VOA, Ukraine Main Directorate of Intelligence spokesperson Andrii Yusov claimed that the Russian special services are using the terrorist attacks on Israel in an anti-Ukrainian propaganda campaign.

Yusov claimed that Ukrainian intelligence received information that Russia has funneled to Hamas “trophy” weapons captured by Russia in Ukraine. This move, Yusov alleged, is meant to implicate Ukraine as a supplier of western weaponry to Hamas terrorists and subsequently discredit it “in the eyes of the free world, its partners and allies.” Yusov added such a propaganda campaign aims “to disrupt or complicate the provision of further Western military assistance” to Ukraine.

Palestinians celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the Gaza Strip fence, Oct. 7, 2023.[File,VOA]

“These are fakes and provocations, of course,” Yusov said, “All aid to Ukraine and all armaments are under strict control by our partners, the United States and the countries of the European Union, NATO. The results of this control and the results of inspections have been reported on several times. Ukraine is being as transparent and open as possible,” he said.

A warning that the Kremlin “is already and will likely continue to exploit the Hamas attacks on Israel” — to hype its rhetoric against Western interference in Ukraine, demoralize Ukrainians and reassure Russians the focus of the West on the Israeli crisis will deflect its attention from the war in Ukraine — was reiterated Sunday by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Following Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7, the Kremlin primarily blamed the West for neglecting conflicts in the Middle East in favor of supporting Ukraine and claimed that the international community will turn its attention to the Middle East crisis and will cease to focus on Ukraine.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said that the United States and its allies should be "busy" with work on a "Palestinian-Israeli settlement" and not "interfere" in Russia's affairs and provide military aid to Ukraine, the ISW reports.

World economy outlook

The chief economist for the International Monetary Fund said the world’s economy is “limping along” in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine along with other global factors.

Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas told reporters in Marrakech, Morocco Tuesday that the IMF is forecasting the global economy to rise just 2.9% in 2024, just a fraction below the 3% growth expected this year.

Europe’s economy has been particularly hit hard by the war in Ukraine, with oil prices rising dramatically after the invasion, which made European governments especially vulnerable due to their reliance on imports of Russian natural gas.

Russia to Withdraw from Nuclear Test Ban Treaty?

In a sign that President Vladimir Putin may resume nuclear testing, Russian lawmakers were given until October 18 to examine ways to rescind Moscow's ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a global nuclear test ban.

The possible step was announced Friday by Russia's envoy to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

In a statement Monday, the head of the CTBTO, Robert Floyd expressed concern about the developments. “Banning nuclear testing remains essential to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and to safeguarding current and future generations from the harmful effects of explosive nuclear testing," he said

Washington has denounced Russia’s move as endangering "the global norm" against nuclear test blasts.

However, Putin said Russia’s possible action to revoke the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would bring it into line with the United States, which has signed but not ratified the pact.

The U.S. did not ratify the treaty, but it has observed a moratorium on nuclear weapon test explosions since 1992.

The 1996 treaty prohibiting “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” anywhere in the world has been signed by 187 nations but not ratified by eight of them, including the United States.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) urged Moscow to think before acting.

"Russia must drop its reckless threat to leave," ICAN said in a statement.

"International treaties... are critical to making sure nuclear testing, which has harmed people’s health and spread lasting radioactive contamination, is not resumed."

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, has said the move could "take Russia and the world backward to a dangerous era of tit-for-tat nuclear threats."

VOA Ukrainian service reporter Mariia Ulianovska contributed to this report. Some information for this report came from Agence France Presse, Reuters and The Associated Press.