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Organization of American States suspends Russia's observer status

Organization of American States suspends Russia's observer status
The Organization of American States suspended Russia's permanent observer status over its war in Ukraine. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

April 22 (UPI) -- The Organization of American States has suspended Russia's status as a permanent observer over its war in Ukraine.

The intergovernmental institution's members voted 25 in favor of the motion to suspend Moscow's participation in the group with eight states declining to vote and one absent during a special meeting of the permanent council in Washington, D.C.

The meeting the was convened Thursday afternoon at the request of Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala with support of Canada, Columbia, Granada, the United States and Uruguay.

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"With the passage of this resolution, OAS member states demonstrated that we do not stand on the sidelines in the face of the Russian government's violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement after the motion was passed. "Our hemisphere stands with Ukraine."

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Anatoly Antonov, Russia's permanent observer to the OAS, called its suspension from the organization "a grave mistake" that was made under the pressure of the United States and "its satellites"

"We are being punished for firmly defending our legitimate national interests and refusing to obey an outside will," he said in a statement. "We regret that the decision -- unprecedented for the OAS -- to review the observer status relies on false facts, about which many of the delegations know only from hearsay."

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The resolution approved by the member states calls for the suspension of Russia's permanent observer status due to the rising number of deaths and displacement of people caused by the Kremlin's nearly two-month-old war in Ukraine.

It states the members are "appalled by the reports of the terrible atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol and in other Ukrainian towns." They also express "grave concern at the Russian Federation's violation of international law, including international humanitarian law."

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,340 civilians with another 5 million forced to flee the country, according to United Nations data.

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Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's permanent representative to the OAS, told member states prior to the vote that his country joined Guatemala "with a heavy heart" in presenting the resolution to suspend Russia's participation but Moscow's invasion and subsequent atrocities committed against civilians in Ukraine has left them no choice but to revoke its status.

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"It is manifestly evident that by its aggression against Ukraine and the events that followed that the Russian federation has violated the terms under which this permanent council granted it status as permanent observer," he said during the meeting. "The circumstances that determined its acceptance have significantly changed."

Bradley Freden, interim U.S. permanent representative to the organization, told member states that they cannot stay silent amid Russia's atrocities and that they must hold the Kremlin to account.

"Our action today shines a bright light on an ugly reality, calling out the Russian government for its unjustified and illegal use of force and its utter disregard for humanitarian law," he said. "We -- the OAS -- cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused."

Russia became a permanent member in 1992.

The vote by the OAS follows the U.N. General Assembly earlier this month suspending Russia from its Human Rights Council.

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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