The United Nations Human Rights Council voted to investigate alleged war crimes and apparent violations of humanitarian laws by Russian troops in Ukraine.

Thirty-three countries voted on Thursday in favor of increasing scrutiny on the "deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression,” while 12 abstained, and only China and Eritrea voted against the group.

The resolution the council supported reaffirmed “its strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity, and unity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, and reiterating the urgent need for the Russian Federation to immediately cease its aggression against Ukraine."


The council voted back in March to establish an international investigation into alleged human rights violations, while Thursday’s vote deepened the inquiry. The resolution is meant to urge investigators to look into the regions of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy, all of which were occupied by Russian forces at one point during the war, according to the Washington Post.

Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed the countries ahead of the vote, providing updates on what she and her office saw last week when they visited 14 towns and villages in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions.

“To date, over 1,000 civilian bodies have been recovered in the Kyiv region alone,” she explained. “Some of these people were killed in hostilities. Others appear to have been summarily executed. Others still have died because of stress to their health caused by hostilities and the lack of medical aid. They have spent weeks in basements being threatened by Russian soldiers with abuse or death if they tried to leave, thereby placing these individuals at severe risk from the hostilities."

Her office has verified a dozen cases of sexual violence across the country, Bachelet added.

“The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking,” she said. “While we have information about 300 such killings, the figures will continue to increase as new evidence becomes available. These killings of civilians often appeared to be intentional, carried out by snipers and soldiers. Civilians were killed when crossing the road or leaving their shelters to seek food and water.”

Also, on Thursday, Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, testified on Capitol Hill on the efforts to hold Russian soldiers accountable for alleged crimes.

“Eventually, people, perpetrators will want to travel — they will have family members abroad, they will want to visit the capitals of Europe, and international prosecutors around the world will be ready with indictments in hand,” Van Schaack said at a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.


Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, has opened nearly 10,000 cases of alleged war crimes as of last week, while she announced on Wednesday that a Russian soldier in Ukrainian custody would stand trial for his alleged crimes.