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Czech Republic to replace Russia on UN Human Rights Council

Russia off rights council

The U.N. General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly for the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the world organization’s leading human rights body following its suspension over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

The Czech Republic was the only candidate for the seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council. Seats on the Geneva-based council are divided among regional groups and a replacement for Russia had to come from an East European country.

In Tuesday’s secret ballot vote, 180 of the General Assembly’s 193 members deposited ballots. The result was 157 countries in favor of the Czech Republic and 23 abstentions.

The assembly approved a U.S.-initiated resolution on April 7 to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council by a vote of 93-24 with 58 abstentions. The vote was significantly lower than on two resolutions the assembly adopted in March demanding an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, withdrawal of all Russian troops and protection for civilians. Both of those resolutions were approved by at least 140 nations.

After the General Assembly suspended Russia, its deputy ambassador Gennady Kuzmin told U.N. members that Russia withdrew from the Human Rights Council before the vote. Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said that by withdrawing, Russia avoided being deprived of observer status at the rights body.

Since its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russia has lost its spot on multiple U.N. bodies, including the executive boards of UN Women and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, the Committee on Non-governmental Organizations and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It was also suspended from the World Tourism Organization.

WASHINGTON — A top U.S. intelligence official says eight to 10 Russian generals have been killed during the war in Ukraine.

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, who leads the Defense Intelligence Agency, disclosed the estimate Tuesday while testifying before a Senate committee.

Berrier told senators that because Russia lacks a non-commissioned officer corps, its generals have to go forward into combat zones and end up in dangerous positions.

KYIV, Ukraine — Germany’s foreign minister has reopened her country’s embassy in Kyiv that was closed more than two months ago following the Russian invasion.

Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that the diplomatic mission would work with a skeleton staff, headed by Ambassador Anka Feldhusen.

Baerbock, the first German Cabinet member to visit Ukraine since the start of the war, pledged further support to Kyiv, including when it comes to investigating and prosecuting war crimes.

Speaking after visiting the towns of Bucha and Irpin, where Russian soldiers are believed to have killed numerous civilians, Baerbock said there can “never again be impunity for the war crimes committed by Russia.”

She said Germany will provide funds to pay for two additional Ukrainian prosecutors who will investigate sexual violence committed during the conflict.

Baerbock also stressed that Germany will reduce its dependence on Russian energy supplies “to zero, forever.” The German government has said it will end imports of Russian oil and coal this year and of natural gas from Russia by 2024 at the latest.

GENEVA — The U.N.’s top human rights body will hold a special session this week following a request from Ukraine to discuss the worsening human rights situation in the country “stemming from the Russian aggression.”

The 47-member Human Rights Council said more than one-third of member states, the required minimum, backed the call that will pave the way for Thursday’s session at the U.N.’s European headquarters in Geneva.

Supporters included many Western countries, as well as Gambia, Marshall Islands and Mexico. A total of 55 countries, including observer states, backed the call, but the list could grow.

The council also held an “urgent dialogue” during its last session to discuss Ukraine just days after the Feb. 24 invasion by Russian forces.

KYIV, Ukraine — The governor of the eastern Luhansk region on Tuesday rejected Russia’s claims its forces have breached Ukrainian defenses near the city of Popasna and moved the region’s administrative borders.

In a Telegram post, Serhiy Haidai described the claim as “fantasies.” He insists that “the defense is strong. There are no breakthroughs.”

Moscow considers the eastern Ukrainian region a sovereign state.

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s foreign minister is suggesting that Kyiv’s goals in fighting the Russian invasion have expanded.

In an interview with The Financial Times published Tuesday, Dmytro Kuleba said “the picture of victory is an evolving concept.”

“In the first months of the war, the victory for us looked like withdrawal of Russian forces to the positions they occupied before Feb. 24 and payment for inflicted damage,” Kuleba said.

“Now, if we are strong enough on the military front and we win the battle for Donbas, which will be crucial for the following dynamics of the war, of course the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories,” the minister said.

LVIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials say around 100 civilians still remain trapped at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol despite earlier reports that all have been evacuated.

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks on Tuesday those left behind are the civilians that “the Russians have not selected.”

“How and based on what criteria they take people out (of the plant) is something only the occupiers know,” Kyrylenko said. He explained that everyone in Mariupol “de-facto is held hostage by the Russians, and the occupiers take advantage of it, constantly changing the conditions of the evacuation.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to the Mariupol mayor, also said civilians are still trapped at the Azovstal mill that is the last pocket of resistance in the embattled port city.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the two officials knew about the remaining civilians at the Azovstal plant and the fighters still there were yet to confirm this.

Hundreds of civilians had sheltered at the plant. Scores of them have been evacuated in recent days in a joint effort by Ukrainian authorities, the Russian military, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that all women, children and elderly have been evacuated from Azovstal.

LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says authorities have found the bodies of 44 civilians in the rubble of a building destroyed by Russia in March.

Oleh Synehubov, the head of Kharkiv’s regional administration, made the announcement Tuesday via a message on social media. He said the five-story building had collapsed with the civilians inside.

He said, “This is another horrible war crime of the Russian occupiers against the civilian population!”

Synehubov did not identify specifically where the building was.

Russia has been holding Izyum, an eastern Ukrainian city in the Kharkiv region, as a key frontline node.



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