WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Tuesday that Russia’s human rights abuses in Ukraine are mounting by the hour.
“Russian strikes are hitting schools, hospitals, and residential buildings,” the top U.S. diplomat said in a speech delivered virtually to the United Nations Human Rights Council. “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.”
Blinken said more than 500,000 Ukrainians have fled the country so far to neighboring NATO member states to seek refuge. Ukraine which is not a member of the NATO military alliance is bordered by four NATO countries; Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine could lead to one of the largest refugee crises in the world.
“If Russia continues down this path, it could, according to our estimates create a new refugee crisis, one of the largest facing the world today, with as many as 5 million more people displaced by Russia’s war of choice,” Thomas-Greenfield said during a Feb. 23 address at the United Nations.
“This is President Putin’s war of choice. If he chooses to escalate further, Russia and Russia alone will bear full responsibility for what is to come,” she added.
Over the weekend, the State Department approved a humanitarian assistance package of $54 million to those affected by Russia’s further invasion. This brings U.S. humanitarian assistance to Ukraine to approximately $405 million since 2014.
The added assistance provides “critically needed health care, safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene supplies, protection for vulnerable children…critical emergency health supplies as well as emergency food assistance and high thermal blankets,” according to a USAID statement.
During his speech, Blinken also questioned whether Russia should be removed from the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“One can reasonably ask whether a U.N. member state that tries to take over another U.N. member state – while committing horrific human rights abuses and causing massive humanitarian suffering – should be allowed to remain on this Council,” Blinken said.