Could Russia be kicked out of the United Nations?

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been critical of the UN. Credit: AP

Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hit out at the United Nations' top body - the Security Council - for "not working effectively" and being unable to guarantee peace and security.

He spoke as Russia faced a fresh wave of condemnation after evidence emerged of what appeared to be deliberate killings of civilians in Bucha, just outside the capital Kyiv.

Russia is a permanent member of the the UN Security Council, meaning it can veto resolutions the body makes, which has further frustrated Ukrainians suffering from Russian attacks.

So could Russia be kicked out of the UN?

What is the UN?

The United Nations was set up in 1945, in the aftermath of the Second World War. It is currently made up of 193 member states.

The idea behind the organisation is to provide a forum on international matters of security and to solve other problems member states face.

Has anyone been kicked out of the UN before?

Under Article 6 of the UN Charter, a member state can be expelled from the organisation if it has “persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter.”

But this would require the UN Security Council (UNSC) – the group’s top body – to recommend that a member state be removed, which would then be put to a vote to all 193 nations in the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

To date, no member state has ever been kicked out.

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So does that mean Russia could be the first to be kicked out?

In theory, yes, but the reality is more complicated.

That’s because Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UNSC, along with China, the US, France and the UK.

There are 15 members of the UNSC in total, with the other 10 non-permanent nations holding their place for two years before another 10 step in.

Because Russia is a permanent member, it has a veto on any resolution. This means that for Russia’s membership to be put to a vote, they would have to agree to it before it goes to the UNGA.

This will almost certainly not happen.

So what action could be taken on Russia?

Following claims of atrocities in Bucha, Russia has been suspended from the United Nations' leading human rights body.

A total of 93 UN member states voted to expel Russia from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), while 24 voted against the move and 58 abstained.

Russia is in its second year of a three-year term on the 47-member council, which cannot make legally binding decisions but its resolutions send important political messages and it can authorise investigations.

Last month the UNHRC opened an investigation into allegations of rights violations, including possible war crimes, in Ukraine since Russia's invasion.

Thirty-two members voted in favour of the resolution, brought by Ukraine. Russia and Eritrea voted against while 13, including China, abstained.

Russia is only the second country to have been suspended from the council.

In March 2011, it unanimously suspended Libya because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Assembly resolutions are not legally binding - unlike Security Council resolutions - but they do have clout as a reflection of global opinion.

What has been the consequence of removing Russia from the Human Rights Council?

It is, arguably, the strongest message the UN could send to the world that the international community condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing allegations of war crimes and atrocities.