U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warns that rules of the international order that help protect peace and security will be weakened if Russian President Vladimir Putin is allowed to get away with his premeditated invasion of Ukraine.
In a video address to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Blinken warned the human rights and humanitarian crises affecting Ukraine will get worse if Putin succeeds in toppling the country’s democratically elected government.
“Look at Crimea, where Russia’s occupation has come with extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, the brutal repression of dissent. … Reports of Russia’s human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law are mounting by the hour,” Blinken said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine six days ago, Blinken notes Russian strikes against civilians and civilian infrastructures have escalated. He says schools, hospitals and residential buildings have been targeted. He says critical infrastructure providing millions of people with drinking water, with gas to prevent them from freezing, with electricity to keep the lights on has been destroyed.
“The High Commissioner said yesterday that Russia’s attacks had killed at least a hundred civilians, including children, and wounded hundreds more — and said she expects the real figures are much higher. … Russia’s violence has driven over half a million Ukrainians from the country in just a few days,” Blinken said. “Children, the elderly, people with disabilities, who are making harrowing journeys through conflict zones.”
The Kremlin insisted Tuesday that Russian troops don’t conduct any strikes against civilian infrastructure and residential areas.
The U.N. Refugee Agency is preparing for up to 4 million Ukrainians to flee for safety to neighboring countries. UNHCR officials say the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century.
Blinken says Russia’s repression does not stop at Ukraine’s borders. He says the Kremlin also is ramping up its repression within Russia. He says human rights defenders, journalists, Putin’s political opponents have long been subjected to harassment, intimidation, poisoning and imprisonment.
He says this treatment now is being meted out to Russians peacefully protesting the invasion of Ukraine. He says thousands have been detained, and anyone found to be assisting a foreign country or organization could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.