(CN) — The war in Ukraine descended into greater barbarity Tuesday as reports came in of an explosion at a chemical plant in the eastern Donbas region and more evidence of Russian war crimes emerged while the Kremlin accused Ukraine of the same.
On Tuesday, Russia was condemned at a United Nations Security Council meeting examining allegations of civilian massacres in towns and villages outside Kyiv. With Russia holding veto power on the Security Council, it was unlikely any action would be taken against Moscow.
Ukraine has accused Russia of committing genocide, alleging the Kremlin seeks to destroy Ukraine and its people. Atrocities committed in the small city of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, have shocked the world. Russia denies its troops were responsible for civilian deaths and accuses Ukraine of a massive act of deception to blame Russia.
In a televised speech to the Security Council, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy argued that international peace cannot be safeguarded as long as Russia has the power to veto Security Council actions.
“We are dealing with a state that is turning the veto of the U.N. Security Council into the right of death,” he said. “This undermines the whole architecture of global security, it allows Russia to go unpunished.”
Zelenskyy said Russia’s military leaders must be put on trial for war crimes and he likened Russian troops to ISIS terrorists.
“It is difficult to find a war crime that the occupiers have not committed” in Bucha and other areas around Kyiv now under Ukrainian control, Zelenskyy said.
He alleged Russian soldiers killed entire families, raped women in front of their children, burned bodies, mutilated victims, executed supposed sympathizers of the Ukrainian army by shooting them in the back of the head, threw victims in wells and crushed civilians in their cars “just for their own pleasure.”
He said Russia wants to colonize Ukraine. “They need our wealth, our people,” he said. “Russia wants to turn Ukraine into silent slaves.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. representative on the Security Council, said there were “chilling” accounts of thousands of Ukrainians being forced into camps in Russia against their will.
“Reports indicate that Russian Federal Security agents are confiscating passports and IDs, taking away cellphones and separating families from one another,” she said. “I do not need to spell out what these so-called filtration camps are reminiscent of. It's chilling and we cannot look away.”
She said the U.S. will seek to kick Russia off the U.N. Human Rights Council because of its abuses.
Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian representative on the council, attacked Zelenskyy for not living up to his promises when he was elected in 2019 to end the years-long war in eastern Ukraine.
He rejected allegations about Russia abducting thousands of Ukrainians and claimed there are hundreds of video testimonials of refugees attesting to war crimes committed by Ukrainian soldiers, in particular by members attached to battalions with links to neo-Nazi ideology.
Russia, he said, invaded to bring “lasting peace” to “blood-soaked” Donbas where he said ethnic Russians had been under bombardment for eight years. Over those eight years, about 14,000 civilians were killed in the Donbas war and up to 2 million people fled their homes.
He blamed the U.S. and its allies of stoking the war in Ukraine as part of a strategy to undermine Russia.
“These countries don't give a hoot about Ukraine itself. It's simply a pawn in the geopolitical game against Russia,” Nebenzya said. “They will try to prolong the conflict by delivering as many weapons and ammunition as possible …. The West is ready to fight in Ukraine until the last Ukrainian.”