Russia suspended from UN Human Rights Council amid civilian 'massacre' claims

Diplomatic pressure on Russia continues to mount, as ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports

Russia has been suspended from the United Nations' leading human rights body.

The key vote took place on Thursday, following mounting allegations that Russian soldiers killed Ukrainian civilians as they retreated from the Kyiv area.

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.

Ukraine's foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was "grateful" for the expulsion.

He tweeted: "War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights. Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant [United Nations General Assembly] resolution and chose the right side of history."

Russia is the second country to have its membership rights stripped at the UNHRC, which was established in 2006. In 2011, the assembly suspended Libya when upheaval in the North African country brought down longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

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

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Ahead of the UN vote, foreign ministers from some of the world's biggest economies condemned Russian "massacres" in Bucha.

In a joint statement, ministers from the G7 (Group of Seven) spoke of "haunting" photographs of mutilated bodies, alleged executions and reports of sexual assaults at the hands of Russian troops.

The deaths have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions on Russia, which has vehemently denied its troops were responsible.

Several apartment buildings were destroyed in the Russian shelling in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv Credit: AP

And, in an appeal to some member states before the UNHRC vote, Russia said the attempt to expel it is political and being supported by countries that want to preserve their dominant position in the world.

Late on Thursday, European Union nations approved new sanctions against Russia, including an EU embargo on coal imports.Meanwhile, UK and other Nato allies agreed on Thursday to supply “new and heavier” weapons to Ukraine. Kyiv had earlier warned the world it needed immediate reinforcement or it will be “too late”. Ukraine is attempting to bolster defence its east, where forces brace for a new Russian offensive. Growing numbers of President Putin’s troops, along with mercenaries, have reportedly been moving into the Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists fought Ukrainian forces for eight years and control two areas.

Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukrainian and Russian officials agreed on Thursday to establish civilian evacuation routes from several areas in the Donbas.

But later, the head of Ukraine’s national railway system said Russian shelling blocked the evacuation of residents from some eastern areas. Oleksandr Kamyshin said on Telegram that the shelling blocked the only railway line that Ukraine controls leading from two cities in the Donetsk region of the Donbas.

“The situation in Donbas is heating up and we understand that April will be quite hot, so those who have the opportunity to leave - women, children, the elderly - need to stay in a safe place,” Borys Filatov, the mayor of Dnipro, a city that lies just west of the Donbas, said at a briefing.