Russia suspended from Human Rights Council; Nato chief warns war could last years

Russia suspended from Human Rights Council; Nato chief warns war could last years
Screens show results from voting by the United Nations General Assembly as member countries pass a resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council on 7 April 2022. (EPA-EFE / JASON SZENES)

The United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, but the measure garnered a substantial number of abstentions in addition to votes against. It was the first time a nation was suspended since a similar vote against Libya in 2011.

The war in Ukraine may last for weeks or even years, Nato and US officials warned as Kyiv’s foreign minister pleaded for urgent military assistance before it’s too late to make a difference in its fight against Russian forces. 

On the ground, the Ukrainian military said Russian troops were preparing for a new offensive in the country’s east. Elsewhere, German intelligence picked up radio intercepts that reinforced indications that Russian troops carried out atrocities against civilians near Kyiv. Russia has denied the accusations.  

Key developments

UN votes to suspend Russia from key panel; 58 abstain 

The United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, but the measure garnered a wide range of abstentions.

The move to suspend Russia was backed by 93 nations and opposed by 24 with 58 abstentions. It represented the first time a nation was suspended since a similar vote against Libya in 2011. Ukraine’s UN envoy, Sergiy Kyslytsya, said the vote would be a defining moment for the global organisation, which he has criticised for not doing enough to stop Russia’s invasion.

Voting to suspend Moscow is “not an option, it is a duty”, Kyslytsya said. He added that voting no means “pulling a trigger, and means a red dot” on the voting screen. “Red as the blood of the innocent lives lost.”

While countries such as Syria, Iran and North Korea predictably backed Russia, many nations – including Brazil, India and Mexico – argued that they want to see the results of an independent investigation into apparent atrocities completed before a decision on Russia’s membership was made.

France urges China to stop echoing Russian propaganda 

A top adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a phone call that his country needs to stop echoing Russia’s propaganda, an official at the French Presidency said. 

War will be a long slog, says top US general 

The war in Ukraine is “going to be a long slog” and a diplomatic solution isn’t an immediate possibility, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

“It’s an open question now on how this ends,” he said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin acknowledged at the same hearing that guidance on intelligence-sharing hadn’t been clear and that he was clarifying that the US would share intelligence with Ukraine to conduct offensive operations in the disputed Donbas region.

Ukraine expects Russia to launch offensive at Kyiv again 

Russian troops have retreated from around Kyiv and will try to seize the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, but a “re-offensive” on the capital should be expected, said Oleksandr Gruzevych, Ukraine’s deputy chief of staff for land forces. 

Gruzevych said that while the Ukrainian army had eliminated about a third of Russian troops near Kyiv, the rest were re-located across the border – with a third deployed to the east, and another third remaining in Belarus. “That is quite a powerful group,” which may be mobilised again to attack Kyiv, he said.

War in Ukraine could last years, says Nato chief 

The war in Ukraine may last for years, according to the chief of Nato. He said foreign ministers from the alliance had agreed to step up support for the country.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after the meeting in Brussels that allies need to work for a quick end to the war “but at the same time be prepared for a long haul. This war may last for weeks, but also months and possibly also for years.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said allies had “agreed to help Ukrainian forces move from their Soviet-era equipment to Nato-standard equipment on a bilateral basis”.

Foreign minister says Ukraine needs Nato’s help now 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his nation needs urgent military assistance before it’s too late to make a difference in its fight against Russian forces.

“Either you help us now – and I’m speaking about days not weeks – or your help will come too late,” he said after meeting with Nato foreign ministers in Brussels. He said he would be following up on specific timelines for his country’s request for more weapons to fight Russian forces. 

“I have no doubts that Ukraine will have weapons necessary to fight. The question is the timeline. 

“You provide us with everything that we need and we will fight for our security, but also for your security so that President Putin will have no chance to test Article 5,” he added, referring to a provision of the Nato treaty in which countries pledge to defend all alliance members from attack.




EU sanctions debate hits a few snags 

Several European Union countries say the fifth package of sanctions against Russia is being watered down too much, according to people familiar with the matter.

EU ambassadors met on Thursday with the aim of approving the package, which contains a coal embargo. But Poland is resisting a change in the draft sanctions plan, sought by Germany, that extends the phase-in period for the ban by a month to four months. Poland also wants to remove all remaining exemptions to the already existing ban on the sale of weapons, as well as military-related technologies and components, to Russia, the people said.

Estonia, Finland to rent joint LNG terminal vessel 

Estonia and Finland plan to jointly rent a liquefied natural gas terminal vessel as part of an effort to lower dependence on Russian gas. 

The floating storage and regasification unit would have possible berths on both sides of the Gulf of Finland, according to statements from the countries, which are connected by the Balticconnector gas pipeline. The project’s timetable is “extremely urgent”, Finland’s economy ministry said.

Russian coal and oil paid for in yuan head to China 

Several Chinese firms used local currency to buy Russian coal in March, and the first cargoes will arrive this month, Chinese consultancy Fenwei Energy Information Service said. 

These will be the first commodity shipments paid for in yuan since the US and Europe penalised Russia and cut several of its banks off from the international financial system. 

Hungary still opposes sanctions on Russian gas  

Hungary reiterated that it can’t back sanctions against Russia that would threaten its natural gas supplies. Despite efforts at diversification, Hungary “is still heavily dependent on Russian gas”, Dora Zombori, ambassador-at-large for energy and climate, said at an industry conference in Budapest. “We cannot change this situation overnight.” 

Russian Railways didn’t repay $605m bond 

Russian Railways informed the issuer, RZD Capital, that it’s applied for a licence from the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation in the UK for the purposes of facilitating payments on outstanding debt obligations issued before March 24, which “may require a number of weeks processing time”, according to a statement. 

Commodity markets remain volatile 

Commodity markets continue to be whipsawed by disruptions sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine and efforts to curb raw-material costs. 

Russia slipped closer to a technical default after foreign banks declined to process about $650-million of dollar payments on its bonds, forcing it to offer roubles instead.

Equities markets are showing signs of stability after a selloff sparked by hawkish minutes from the Federal Reserve, with European markets mostly up and US futures mixed. 

EU Russian coal ban may be pushed to mid-August 

Envoys are poised to approve a ban on Russian coal that would become fully effective from mid-August, a month later than initially proposed, Reuters reported, citing a person in the EU familiar with the matter whom it didn’t identify. 

Shell exit from Russia may trigger $5bn writedown 

Shell said its withdrawal from Russia will result in $4-billion to $5-billion of impairments, and warned investors that extreme energy price volatility in the first quarter could hit cash flow. 

While Western energy companies leaving Russia are likely to take massive financial hits, they are attempting to minimise the reputational damage of investing in Moscow-backed projects following the war on Ukraine.  

Germany overhears Russian soldiers discussing Bucha – Spiegel  

Germany’s foreign intelligence service intercepted communications between Russian soldiers discussing the killing of civilians in the town of Bucha, Der Spiegel reported, without saying how it obtained the information. 

The radio communications, which appear to place Russian soldiers at locations where bodies were found, contradict Moscow’s denial that its troops were involved. In one of the messages, a soldier can be heard describing how he shot a person on a bicycle. Another appears to provide evidence of a strategy to stop and question civilians before shooting them, according to the report. 

The material also shows that mercenaries, including the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, appeared to have played a major role in the killings, according to Der Spiegel

Finland’s Nato-backing party rises in poll 

Finland’s National Coalition, the only large party in the Nordic country to openly support joining Nato, soared by 3.5 percentage points in the latest poll. The party is benefiting from a historic shift in Finnish attitudes to potential membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The gain, almost twice the margin of error, gives it 26.1% backing, its highest in polls by YLE.

Finland’s government is slated to send a white paper to Parliament next week on its changed security environment. 

Australia imposes new sanctions on Russia over Bucha 

Australia placed new sanctions on 67 Russian individuals, including military figures accused of human rights abuses, bringing the total number of people sanctioned by Canberra since the beginning of the Ukraine war to almost 600.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement that the move was in response to “the emergence of evidence of war crimes committed by Russia in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv.” 




Russian unemployment crisis looms 

The next economic jolt to Russia will likely arrive by way of the labour market, building in intensity over the coming months and bringing new hardships for a nation already waylaid by a series of shocks.

Joblessness this year is set to more than double from the first quarter and exceed 9% for the first time in more than a decade, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts in March. 

Germany open to coal embargo, says minister

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany has already cut its reliance on Russian coal by at least half in the past month and won’t stand in the way if the European Union decides to ban imports of the fuel from Moscow. 

Habeck said it would be “foolish” to name an exact date for when purchases of Russian coal could end. The sanctions being considered would allow some deliveries to be completed, he added.

Austria expels four Russian diplomats 

Austria expelled four Russian diplomats for illegal activities, the Foreign Ministry in Vienna said in a statement.  

While several other nations have announced similar measures in recent days, it’s a rare step for Austria, which houses several international organisations and has sought a diplomatic role in bridging Europe’s east and west. Russia has almost 300 diplomats stationed in Austria.  

Ukraine says Russian troops readying for eastern offensive 

Russian troops are focusing on preparations for their next offensive in Ukraine’s east, the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said on its Facebook page. Shelling of towns in the Luhansk region started on Wednesday night and continued through the morning, with significant damage to residential buildings and infrastructure.

Ukraine’s government has urged people living in the regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk to leave the areas “while the opportunity still exists” in advance of Russia’s expected new assault.  

EU ministers ‘set to discuss oil embargo’ 

European Union foreign affairs ministers are likely to discuss imposing an oil embargo on Russia when they meet early next week, said Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief. 

Borrell told reporters in Brussels that an oil embargo was not in a fifth sanctions package on the agenda for Thursday, but that he expected the ministers would tackle it on Monday “and sooner or later, I hope sooner, it will happen”.  

Germany too slow to move on weapons, says Ukrainian minister

Germany is taking too long to decide on supplying more weapons to Kyiv, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. 

“While Berlin has time, Kyiv doesn’t,” Kuleba said of Germany’s “length of procedures and decision-making” as he arrived for a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels. 

Kuleba said Germany had made “a revolutionary step” in agreeing several weeks ago to supply weapons to Ukraine. “However, it is clear that Germany can do more, given its reserves and capacity.” DM 


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