WASHINGTON—The U.S. and its allies used Thursday’s United Nations Security Council meeting to call for an investigation into Russia’s alleged war crimes in Ukraine, but proposed few concrete measures for moving such a process forward.
“We support a range of national and international efforts to collect and examine mounting evidence of war crimes in Ukraine,” U.S. Secretary of State
told the floor at the United Nations Security Council meeting. “We must hold these perpetrators to account.”
France is leading calls for the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute crimes of atrocities in Ukraine, including the crime of aggression, but it couldn’t be determined what format it would take or how it would work.
Ukraine’s foreign minister,
told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting that Kyiv supported continuing efforts to create a mechanism to hold Russia to account, but that providing Ukraine with more weapons was critical to prevent more atrocities from taking place.
“The only feasible way to put President Putin and his entourage on trial is to establish a special tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” he said later at the meeting. “I reiterate my call on all states to back this undertaking for the sake of the very basic principles of humanity and the U.N. Charter.”
threat of a nuclear response to battlefield losses in Ukraine fueled a new sense of urgency to the U.N.’s gathering this year, but longstanding differences among permanent members, which include Moscow, have increasingly become an impediment to global security.
The creation of any tribunal to try war crimes is fraught with legal complications and Thursday’s session highlighted the limits of the U.N. body to respond to the crisis.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the Rome Statute, which created the International Criminal Court. The court, which has begun an investigation into allegations of war crimes, deployed a permanent field presence to Ukraine in May, and following the discovery of mass burial sites in the east last week, it plans to send additional investigators to collect possible evidence.
“The process of accountability, of collecting evidence, of sieving it and weighing it and determining what is shown is not simply an academic exercise. It is critical in order to pierce the fog of war,” said International Criminal Court prosecutor
at the start of the meeting. “When we have done our job, we will in due course present matters to the independent judges of the ICC.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, made counter accusations, saying the West is fomenting the war in Ukraine by pumping Kyiv with weapons and supporting extremist groups in the country, which he said trampled the rights of Russian-speaking communities.
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“I think this is very timely,” Mr. Lavrov said referring to the focus on the need for accountability at Thursday’s meeting, “Precisely this term, impunity, reflects what has been going on in the country since 2014.”
Divisions ran deep among the permanent members of the Security Council, which includes Russia, the U.S., the U.K., France and China, long before Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. Friction among the most powerful countries has hindered the U.N.’s ability to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from human rights violations to climate change.
On Thursday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi stepped back from the fray and called for continuing dialogue to de-escalate the conflict.
“The top priority is for the parties to resume dialogue without preconditions,” he said. “When it comes to the safety and security of nuclear facilities, there is no room for trial and error. Accidents and risk must be prevented.”
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