News World Australia part of Russia suspension push
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Australia part of Russia suspension push

Joe Biden has vowed tougher sanctions for Russia

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Australia is part of a push to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council alongside the United States and Britain.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky used a UN address on Tuesday to call for the expulsion of Russia from the security council – where Russia is one of five permanent members who hold veto powers – so it can’t block peace resolutions to the war being waged on his country.

But there is no direct way to remove a permanent member of the security council under the UN charter.

However, Russia can be suspended from the UN Human Rights Council with a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly.

Australia has co-sponsored the resolution required, but a senior foreign affairs official said the push was already underway before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

Russia has threatened to retaliate against states who vote for its suspension.

Separately, Mr Zelensky has called for sanctions that are economically destructive enough for Russia to end its war, after accusing some countries of still prioritising money over punishment for civilian killings that the West condemns as war crimes.

The democratic world must reject Russian oil and completely block Russian banks from the international finance system, he said in his daily video address early on Thursday.

“The only thing that we are lacking is the principled approach of some leaders… who still think that war and war crimes are not something as horrific as financial losses,” Mr Zelensky told the Irish parliament earlier this week.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Marise Payne said it was extremely important that Australia moved in coordination with the US and partners against Russian aggression.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Brussels, Senator Payne said it was a critical time to stand up against authoritarianism.

“I’m looking forward to reinforcing the importance that no matter where in the world they behave like this, authoritarian states cannot be allowed to trample on the rights of democratic countries,” she said.

“[It’s] a critical time for partners like Australia and the US to be closely joined in response to the actions of authoritarian states that are untenable, unacceptable, complete illegal violations, wholesale violations of international law.”

During a hearing in Canberra, Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong pushed officials on why Russian diplomats were expelled from Australia over the use of the chemical agent Novichok to poison a former Russian military intelligence officer, but not after reports war crimes were committed in Ukraine.

“I do understand the logic of being cautious to get to an expulsion point,” she said on Thursday.

“There must be a line where a country so demonstrates its unwillingness to adhere to international norms.”

DFAT First Assistant Secretary Andrew Walter said the matter was under constant consideration by the federal government.

“Nothing has been ruled out in regards to this,” he told the committee hearing.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has called for the expulsion of Russian diplomats, barring the ambassador, to hold the Kremlin accountable for the reported atrocities.

Mr Albanese pointed out European countries had already taken this measure.

Countries such as France, Germany and Italy have taken steps to expel 206 Russian diplomats and staff, while allowing ambassadors to remain in most cases.

“It is hard to conceive how the decision can be made to allow these individuals to stay, given the sickening abuses being carried out by Russian forces,” he said.

“The mass killing of innocent civilians and the use of rape as a weapon of war can only be described as war crimes.”

Russia has denied targeting civilians during its retreat from towns such as Bucha. But Ukrainian officials say between 150-300 bodies lay in a single mass grave discovered by a church in the town.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the government would take a measured and considered approach in relation to actions against Russia.

“With any action, you’ve got to consider what the response is going to be. It’s very easy to stand up and say ‘do this’, but you actually have to consider what the repercussions of that are going to be,” she told Sky News.

“We will go quite quite deeply into the issues of Ukraine, of Russia [and] what the impact will be of any actions that we might take on Australia and Australians.”

– with AAP