As the Russian assault on Ukraine continues, it is increasingly becoming clear that Vladimir Putin is making a point of targeting Ukrainian civilians, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Russian strikes are hitting schools, hospitals, and residential buildings. They are destroying critical infrastructure, which provides millions of people across Ukraine with drinking water, gas to keep them from freezing to death, and electricity. Civilian buses, cars, and even ambulances have been shelled. Russia is doing this every day – across Ukraine.”
“These aren’t military targets; they are places where civilians work and families live,” said Secretary Blinken. “Russia’s attacks had killed at least a hundred civilians, including children, and wounded hundreds more – and [UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet] said she expects the real figures are much higher.”
Asked whether he believed that Russia is deliberately targeting civilians, Secretary Blinken said that indeed he did.
“We have certainly seen in the past that one of Russia’s methods of war is to be absolutely brutal in trying to cow the citizenry of a given country, and that includes at the very least indiscriminate targeting and potentially deliberate targeting as well.”
Speaking at the 49th session of the Human Rights Council on March 1, Secretary Blinken said that the community of nations “Must send a resolute and united message that President Putin should unconditionally stop this unprovoked attack, … and immediately withdraw Russian forces from Ukraine.”
“We must condemn, firmly and unequivocally, Russia’s attempt to topple a democratically elected government, and its gross human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. And we must take steps to hold the perpetrators accountable.”
“We must underscore Russia’s obligation, even in its unlawful invasion, to respect international humanitarian law. … We must reject Russia’s attempts to falsely justify this attack as a defense of human rights – misappropriating terms that we reserve for the worst atrocities and disrespecting every victim of those crimes.”
“Finally, we must press the Kremlin to respect the human rights of all Russians – including the right of citizens to peacefully express dissent and journalists to report the news – and provide information to the families of Russian soldiers, who deserve to know the fate of loved ones killed in President Putin’s war of choice,” said Secretary Blinken.”
“We’re looking very closely at what’s happening in Ukraine right now, including what’s happening to civilians. We’re taking account of it. We’re documenting it. And we want to ensure, among other things, that there’s accountability for it.”