GENEVA: If Russian President Vladimir Putin achieves his goal of ousting the government in Kyiv, the humanitarian and rights crises in Ukraine "will only get worse", the top US diplomat warned Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned the UN Human Rights Council that Russia's "premeditated, unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine" was creating a dire human rights and humanitarian crisis there.
In a pre-recorded video, he also questioned whether Russia should be allowed to hold onto its seat on the Geneva-based council after launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
He decried that Moscow's "violations of international humanitarian law mount by the hour", pointing to the many civilians killed and well over half a million who have fled the country in a matter of days.
But, he warned, "if President Putin succeeds in his stated goal of toppling Ukraine's democratically-elected government, the human rights and humanitarian crises will only get worse".
Blinken pointed to the situation on the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
There, he charged, "Russia's occupation has come with extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, and the brutal repression of dissent.
"The Kremlin is also ramping up its repression within Russia," Blinken warned.
He said that "even before the invasion, it was shuttering human rights organisations and harassing, poisoning, and imprisoning anti-corruption activists and political opponents".
And since the invasion began just six days ago, "authorities reportedly have detained thousands of Russians peacefully protesting the invasions, as well as journalists covering the demonstrations", he added.
The top US diplomat called on the council to "send a united message that President Putin should unconditionally stop this unprovoked attack... and immediately withdraw Russian forces from Ukraine".
He also demanded "steps to hold the perpetrators accountable".
Blinken voiced outrage that a member of the top UN rights body would carry out such a "flagrant assault on Ukraine's sovereignty.
"One can reasonably ask whether a UN member state that tries to take over another UN member state, while committing horrific human rights abuses and causing massive humanitarian suffering, should be allowed to remain on this council," he said.