'You can leave the room': Charles Michel blasts Russian Ambassador to UN

'You can leave the room': Charles Michel blasts Russian Ambassador to UN
Charles Michel at the United Nations. Credit: United Nations

The United States and the EU have called on Russia to stop the alleged sexual violence being committed by the Russian Army in Ukraine during a UN Security Council meeting on Monday

President of the European Council, the Belgian Charles Michel, used his speaking time to denounce atrocities done by Russia. "We hear reports that Russian troops are using sexual violence as a weapon of war. Sexual violence is a war crime. A crime against humanity. A tactic of torture, terror and oppression."

Michel added that the "crimes will be punished," with the evidence currently being gathered to find those responsible for these war crimes. The EU leader condemned Moscow for having the "sole responsibility" in the food crisis caused by the war, which lead the Russian UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, to walk out of the room, to be replaced by a deputy.

EU Council President Michel responded by saying "you may leave the room, maybe it's easier not to listen to the truth, dear Ambassador."

Before his departure, the Russian Ambassador refuted accusations of sexual abuse by Russian forces, calling them lies.

"The accusations of sexual violence against the Russian Army have become repetitive (…) but no proof has been provided," said Vassily Nebenzia. "Be more careful because there is no proof of these claims from Kyiv," the Russian Ambassador told diplomats.

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The Ukrainian UN Ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, also reiterated the claims of Russian forces committing sexual violence in Ukraine, noting how Moscow is seeking to erase all traces of it. He called for finding a solution to "Russia's occupation of the permanent Soviet seat" on the Security Council.

"The sooner the better," Kyslytsya said because "we need a credible Council."

The Security Council is the body of the UN charged with ensuring security, with powers to establish peacekeeping missions and authorise military action. It is the only part of the UN that can issue binding resolutions on Member States.

It has five permanent members, including Russia, who the power of a veto on resolutions. While the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in March that Russia end its military operations in Ukraine, the Security Council was powerless to act due to Russia's veto powers.

Sexual violence

Evidence is growing that Russian soldiers are using rape as a weapon of war in Ukraine. In areas gained back from the Russian occupation, civilians are giving horrifying accounts of sexual violence. The International Court has launched investigations into more than 400 cases, but there will likely be more.

In April 2022, Lyudmyla Denisova, Ombudsman for Human Rights in Ukraine, said that at least 25 women and girls had been raped by Russian soldiers in a house in Bucha. Denisova added that the Russian solders had described their intention of raping the women "to the point where they would not want sexual contact with any man, to prevent them from having Ukrainian children."

Russia has denied accusations of sexual violence as well as killings by civilians. Yet an analysis of satellite images done by the New York Times of before and after the Russian invasion rebuts Russia's denials.

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