Russia on Monday blocked a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the human rights situation in Syria, Reuters reported.
“We do not see any justification for this meeting since human rights is not a subject on the agenda of the security council,” said Gennady Kuzmin, deputy permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations.
The move by Russia, the largest backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, comes as human rights groups say a devastating bombing campaign by Syrian allied forces has killed hundreds of civilians in the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus, including 15 children and two women reported killed on March 19.
Eight Security Council nations say it's "imperative" that the U.N. body "immediately pursue decisive action" to achieve a cease-fire in Syria if U.N. member states, especially Russia and its ally Syria, don't implement a resolution demanding a cessation of hostilities.
Russia's move to block discussion of human rights prompted a strong condemnation from the UN's human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who had been scheduled to brief the council at the blocked meeting.
"This failure to protect the lives and rights of millions of people is corroding not only the work but also the legitimacy of the UN," Zeid said.
France and six other members had called for the meeting, which was expected to include a briefing from Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Our council needs to have all necessary information to understand the crisis that it is examining, including those pertaining to human rights. And this is particularly the case in Syria,” said French U.N. ambassador Francois Delattre.
Kuzmin asked for a procedural vote and only eight delegations voted in favor of having the meeting, one short of the number required.
China, Bolivia and Kazakhstan voted with Russia to prevent the meeting, while Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia were abstentions.
Those who voted to hold the meeting alongside France were the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland, Holland, the United States, Peru and Kuwait. All except Kuwait later hosted an informal meeting in which Zeid was expected to speak.