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U.N. General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from Human Rights Council

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U.N. General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from Human Rights Council
Debris from destroyed buildings and vehicles is seen in Borodianka, a town located northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Photo by Vladyslav Musienko/UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) -- The United Nations General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council due to Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine and atrocities against civilians in places like Bucha, which have outraged the world this week.

The General Assembly voted 93-24 in favor of suspending Russia from the council. There were 58 abstentions.

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The resolution, which was led by the United States, required a two-thirds vote to pass.

"[There is] grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, particularly at the reports of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by the Russian Federation, including gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights," the resolution states.

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned Russia this week and said Moscow's inclusion on the 47-member Human Rights Council is a "farce."

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"Suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council is something we, collectively, have the power to do in the General Assembly. Our votes can make a real difference," she said in a tweet earlier this week.

"We have all seen the gruesome photos out of Bucha, Ukraine. Lifeless bodies lying in the streets, apparently summarily executed, their hands tied behind their backs. Russia must be held accountable for this brutality."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during an emergency session about the Ukraine-Russia conflict in General Assembly Hall at U.N. headquarters in New York City on March 2. She led the effort to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

U.S. President Joe Biden called the decision a "meaningful step."

"The images we are seeing out of Bucha and other areas of Ukraine as Russian troops withdraw are horrifying. The signs of people being raped, tortured, executed -- in some cases having their bodies desecrated -- are an outrage to our common humanity," Biden said.

"Russia's lies are no match for the undeniable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine. That's why nations in every region condemn Russia's unprovoked and brutal aggression against Ukraine and support the brave people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom."

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China was among the 24 countries that voted against suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council. The last time a country was suspended occurred in 2011 when Libya's seat was suspended due to government-aligned violence against protesters.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly briefing on the war, said officials were working to clear rubble and bury the dead after the Russian military left the town of Borodianka, a suburb to the northwest of Kyiv.

"It's much scarier there," compared to Bucha, he said. "More victims of Russian invaders.

"So far, the Russian state and the Russian military are the greatest threat on the planet to freedom, to human security, to the concept of human rights as such. After Bucha, this is already obvious."

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said 26 bodies were found in the rubble of two destroyed houses in Borodianka.

"And these are only two houses. Atrocities are in fact a legal term that combines three crimes: war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide," she said. "I think we need to get used to this term. This is a legal term in international criminal law. So Borodianka is an illustrative example."

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Ukrainian prosecutors who are investigating the civilian deaths in Bucha said they found evidence of torture, dismemberment and burning of corpses. At least one person was beheaded, they said.

"Every day we get about 10 to 20 calls for bodies like this," Ukrainian prosecutor Ruslan Kravchenko told The Washington Post.

Russian forces have now shifted resources and strategy to eastern Ukraine to establish control of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk -- two pro-Russia, separatist-held regions that were a prelude to the invasion on Feb. 24.

Russia had stationed troops near the border with eastern Ukraine for months, and Russian President Vladimir Putin declared those regions, collectively known as the Donbas, to be independent just days before launching the invasion.

Russian Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Rudskoy said that troops would transition from a nationwide attack in Ukraine and concentrate efforts instead on the "complete liberation" of the Donbas region.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Wednesday that the government in Kyiv is encouraging people in the Donbas, as well as Kharkiv, to evacuate.

"It is necessary now, because then people will be under fire and threatened with death," Vereshchuk said, according to CNBC.

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In Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city that has been under constant fire since the war began, Ukrainian bomb technicians said they have found that Russian forces are now using sophisticated landmines that don't even have to be tripped directly to explode. The discovery of the mines was reported by Human Rights Watch.

The newer POM-3 smart mines, experts say, have sensors that can detect when a person walks in the vicinity and detonate -- and can even tell between humans and animals. With traditional mines, someone or something would set off the blast by coming into direct contact with it or clipping a trip wire.

"These create a threat that we don't have a response for," James Cowan, leader of the HALO Trust charity, said, according to The New York Times.

The HALO Trust is a British-American group that clears land mines and other dangerous leftovers from past wars.

"We'll need to find some donors to procure robotics that can allow us to deal with these threats at some distance," Cowan added.

Scenes from Ukraine: Destruction, atrocities and mourning

Priest Andrii Gavalin presides over the funeral of Eugene Bogdanov, 35, in Bucha, Ukraine, on May 10. Bogdanov went missing two months ago. His wife, Natalia Bogdanova, was searching for him throughout the Kyiv and Bucha regions when his body was found at a morgue in Belaya Tserkov on May 9. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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