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Tipsheet

Putin Spox Admits 'Significant Losses' in Ukraine as UN Boots Russia From Human Rights Council

Manuel Elias/United Nations via AP

As Guy noted in recent coverage here and here, the United Nations allowed Russia to maintain its seat on the Human Rights Council — until Thursday. As Guy's coverage pointed out, the dissonant canceling of Russian athletes, celebrities, and even cats while Russia remained active on the United Nations Human Rights Council was a real head-scratcher. 

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But after the Biden administration finally called for Russia's removal from the human rights watchdog that is more often busy passing resolutions condemning Israel than stopping war crimes or genocides carried out by nations like Russia and China, the UN General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. Russia promptly said it quit the HRC, sort of like handing in a resignation letter after being fired.

Led by the United States, the vote came down 93-24 while 58 nations abstained. As The AP noted, "Russia is only the second country to have its membership rights stripped at the rights council. The other, Libya, was suspended in 2011 by the assembly when upheaval in the North African country brought down longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi." For what it's worth, China — which abstained from the vote to boot Russia — is still on the Human Rights Council. 

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Still, Russia retains its permanent position on the UN Security Council where it still has veto power, as seen when it killed a resolution calling for Russia to end its war in Ukraine. (What is the UN good for, again?)

Russia's removal from the Human Rights Council comes as Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted in an interview that Russian forces have suffered "significant losses" in its invasion of Ukraine. "It's a huge tragedy for us," he also said Thursday as NATO estimates put Russian casualties somewhere around 40,000, not to mention the hundreds of Russian helicopters, planes, tanks, and other military equipment that Ukraine's feisty resistance have destroyed. Peskov disagreed with the characterization that Putin's forces have been "humiliated," but that's likely because his neck is on the line every time he speaks publicly. 

Will Russia's removal from the generally toothless UN Human Rights Council do anything? Not likely. But what's more alarming is that it took the Biden administration more than one month from the time Putin's bloody invasion began to decide to take the symbolic action of calling for Russia's removal. Also alarming is the fact that Biden is still relying on Russia to negotiate his attempted return to a nuclear deal with Iran. Those facts, paired with Jen Psaki's declaration that the Biden administration wouldn't seek similar action to kick China off the HRC for its genocide against the Uyghurs — not to mention its everyday suppression of human rights — shows again the incoherence of the Biden administration's foreign policy. 

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