Russia has been urged to stop sexual violence allegedly carried out by its military forces and armed proxies in Ukraine, allegations that Moscow denounced as “lies” at a meeting of the UN Security Council.
The calls to end sexual violence in Ukraine were made by the US and Europe on Monday during a heated meeting of the security council, organised by Albania, which currently holds the rotating presidency.
“It is on Russia to stop rape, violence, and atrocities from within its ranks,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the meeting.
“It is on Russia to end this unconscionable, unprovoked war on the people of Ukraine, and we call on the Russian Federation to do just that,” she said.
European Council President Charles Michel denounced “atrocities” by Russia in Ukraine.
“These crimes must be and will be punished. To hold accountable those who are responsible, we need evidence and we are now helping to collect the evidence of these crimes,” he said.
Michel added that Moscow was also “solely responsible” for a food crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.
“We have seen a disturbing increase in conflict-related sexual violence, including horrific reports of rape and sexual violence committed by Russian armed forces. And a significant increase in human trafficking,” British Ambassador James Kariuki told the UN meeting.
“Russia’s actions, including destroying or blockading key ports, have also exacerbated one of the most severe worldwide food crises in recent history,” he said.
The accusations led Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, to leave the chamber and be replaced with a deputy at the meeting.
Nebenzia had earlier denied alleged sexual abuses committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, saying there was no evidence.
“The accusations of sexual violence against the Russian army have become repetitive… but no proof has been provided,” he said.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, urged that sexual violence crimes are “ultimately reflected” in any peace agreement related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“This includes ensuring that amnesties for sexual violence crimes are explicitly prohibited,” she said.
In April, the UN demanded an independent investigation into rape and sexual violence in Ukraine, after allegations that Russian troops had committed such crimes in occupied areas of the country.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the time that investigators had received reports of “hundreds of cases of rape” in areas previously occupied by Russian troops, including sexual assaults of small children.