Russia is committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine through a series of almost daily attacks on housing, food stores, and other infrastructure, the United States’ top diplomat testified before the United Nations Security Council.
Russian forces are engaged in a campaign of mass criminal activity, including both war crimes and crimes against humanity, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a Sept. 20 ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Such actions, he said, violated the U.N. Charter and several resolutions to which Russia itself is a signatory.
“Russia is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on an almost daily basis,” Mr. Blinken said.
“It’s hard to imagine a nation demonstrating more contempt for the United Nations and all that it stands for.”
‘Let Them Die’: Russian Atrocities ExaminedMr. Blinken described visiting the town of Yahidne, north of Kyiv, earlier this month. The town was one of the first sites where rampant human rights abuses by Russian forces were observed.
It was there, during the early stages of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, that Russian soldiers forced approximately 300 civilians, including women and children, into a school basement with no windows, no water, and limited air for 28 days.
Ten people died in the basement. The oldest victim was 93 years old. The youngest victim was 6 weeks old.
“My guide said they were packed together so tightly that they could barely breathe. There was no room to sit, let alone lie down,” Mr. Blinken said.
“When they cried out to their captors that people were sick and needed medical care, a Russian soldier yelled back, ‘Let them die.’”
Mr. Blinken recounted that in Yahidne, the Russians allowed the bodies of dead Ukrainians to be moved out of the school basement only once a day, leaving corpses in the cramped quarters for hours.
“From the comfortable distance of this chamber, it’s really easy to lose sight of what it’s like to Ukrainian victims of Russian aggression,” Mr. Blinken said.
Russia Engaged in Mass Bombing of Civilian InfrastructureUnder the direction of President Vladimir Putin, Russia has also engaged in a prolonged campaign of targeting civilian infrastructure, including apartment complexes, hospitals, and food stores, and energy and transportation infrastructure.
Mr. Blinken said that the incidents were not isolated and happened across Ukraine almost daily.
“In the last week alone, Russia has bombed apartment buildings in Kryvyi Rih. It's burned down humanitarian aid depots in Lviv. It’s demolished grain silos in Odessa. It shelled eight communities in Sumy in a single day,” Mr. Blinken said.
“[It is] a war that President Putin openly declared from the outset ... aimed at erasing Ukraine as a sovereign country and restoring Russia’s lost empire. In this war, there is an aggressor, and there is a victim. One side is attacking the core principles of the U.N. Charter. The other fights to defend them.”
'Weaponizing Hunger'Since refusing to renew the deal, Moscow has instead embarked on a campaign to systematically destroy Ukrainian port and silo infrastructure, limiting Ukraine’s ability to ship or store wheat, two-thirds of which would have gone to developing nations worldwide.
Now, those countries will face higher prices and possible food shortages unless they buy wheat from Russia at a premium.
Mr. Blinken testified that Russia was “weaponizing hunger” and that its actions would likely decrease Ukraine’s total grain exports by 2.8 million metric tons, equivalent to about 5.5 billion loaves of bread.
“Russia, meanwhile, [is] on track for a record year of grain exports. The hungrier the world is, the more Moscow profits,” Mr. Blinken said.
“Not only did Putin pull out of the deal, but Russia is now mining Ukraine’s fields, bombing its ports and rails, burning its silos.”
“President Putin is betting that if he keeps doubling down on the violence, that if he’s willing to inflict enough suffering on enough people, the world will cave on its principles, and Ukraine will stop defending itself,” Mr. Blinken said.
“Ukrainians are not giving up, for they’ve seen what life would look like if they submit to Russian control. It’s that basement in Yahidne.”