The UN Human Rights Council called for a special meeting on Thursday in Geneva, for a decision on swift action towards Russia over atrocities reportedly committed against Ukrainian civilians in the ongoing invasion.
There will now be an official investigation into Russia’s conduct throughout the conflict, which could lead to a variety of serious sanctions.
Russian forces and politicians have been condemned by the UN, with the governing body voting to suspend Russia from membership in a meeting last month.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that the continuous reports of war crimes, civilian killings, property destruction and human rights abuses being reported were caused by “the use of explosive weapons with wide area side effects in populated areas, such as shelling from heavy artillery, including multiple rocket launch systems, and missile and air strikes”.
“These killings of civilians often appeared to be intentional, carried out by snipers and soldiers,” she said.
“Civilians were killed when crossing the road or leaving their shelters to seek food and water … others were killed as they fled in their vehicles.”
Russia was not invited to participate in the meeting, instead, the floor was given to Ukraine and it appears that a draft resolution calling to end the war and provide ongoing support for its victims is being drawn up.
The UN have employed independent rights experts known as Special Procedures to investigate and clarify concerns over human rights law, which now includes the poor treatment of some hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians.
Special Procedures Coordination Chair Victor Madrigal-Borloz was disgusted over reports of racist treatment towards some groups attempting to flee the country.
“Colleagues had also noted with serious concern reports of people of African descent and racial and ethnic minorities being subjected to discriminatory treatment as they flee Ukraine,” he said.
“The lives of all people of Ukraine are in danger, including ethnic, national, linguistic and religious minorities.”
The sanctions imposed on Russia could be unheard of in modern human rights history, with some scholars and commentators comparing the potential fallout to that of World War II’s Nazi Germany.