Russia failed in its bid to return to the United Nations’ top human rights body on Tuesday, with rivals winning considerably more votes at the General Assembly in an election seen as a key test of Western efforts to keep Moscow isolated.
In the secret ballot, Russia won 83 votes versus 160 for Bulgaria and 123 for Albania, which had competed against it in the same eastern Europe grouping for two seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Councilfor a three-year term.
“UN member states sent a strong signal to Russia’s leadership that a government responsible for countless war crimes and crimes against humanity doesn’t belong there,” said Louis Charbonneau, United Nations director at Human Rights Watch.
Russia was ousted from the council 18 months ago in a U.S.-led diplomatic push following its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
A senior Russian official accused the United States of deploying unmatched efforts to ensure Russia remained out of the Human Rights Council.
“The United States campaigned for Albania,” Maria Zabolotskaya, Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, was quoted as saying by RIA news agency. “Such a campaign directly aimed against us is unprecedented.”
Amid some signs of Ukraine war “fatigue”, some diplomats earlier said Russia had a reasonable chance of getting voted back onto the council.
“It was not even that close in the end,” said Richard Gowan, the U.N. Director of the International Crisis Group. “I think Western diplomats may have been overstating the risk of a Russian win to keep UN members on their toes.”
China and Cuba were also among the winners of Tuesday’s vote, drawing objections from human rights defenders. The next three-year term begins on Jan. 1.