Friday, May 20, 2022

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 40

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine on February 24 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. Clashes are ongoing in various locations of Ukraine, while the Russian military keeps up its airstrikes. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict during round-the-clock negotiations. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

France to expel Russian diplomatic staff

France has decided to expel many Russian diplomatic staff, echoing a similar action taken by Germany, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday.

“Their actions go against our national security interests. This move (to expel the diplomatic staff) is part of a European initiative,” the ministry added.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced that Moscow reserves the right to retaliate after France expelled Russian diplomats from the country.

US defense official: About two-thirds of Russian troops who were centered around Kyiv have departed area

About two thirds of Russian troops that were centered around Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, have “departed the area,” a senior US defense official told reporters Monday.

The troops that have left the area around Kyiv are “heading north,” and “consolidating in Belarus,” the official said.

“What we continue to believe is that they’re going to be refit, resupplied, perhaps maybe even reinforced with additional manpower, and then sent back into Ukraine to continue fighting elsewhere,” the official added.

The US “assessment” is that these troops will be “applied in the eastern party of the country, in the Donbas region,” to fight there, the official said.

“Our best assessment, and it is only an assessment, is that they will be applied in the eastern part of the country in the Donbas region, but that is an assessment only,” the official added.

A “bitter fight” continues over Mariupol, but “there are no indications that the Russians have made any progress” in taking the city, the official said. Russian forces are now “much more to a defensive posture” around Kherson, the official said.

“We assess that in the Kherson area, as we’ve been talking about for the last few days, the Russians have kind of gotten pinched between Kherson and Mykolaiv. We now assess that they’ve shifted much more to a defensive posture around Kherson,” the official added.

Russian forces are “still flying about more than 200 sorties a day,” and “most of their airstrikes are focusing on the Izyum area,” the official stated.


EU attributes atrocities in Ukraine to Russia, saying “no one else” could have committed them

The areas of Ukraine where mass graves and murdered civilians were found “have been under the occupation, under the control of the aggressor, of the Russian troops, or they have been bombed out by the aggressor, the Russian troops,” Peter Stano, European Commission spokesperson for foreign affairs, said on Monday.

“There is no one else who could have committed these atrocities,” he added.

Russia has denied any involvement in the killings, maintaining it doesn’t target civilians and saying the images of bodies on the streets of Bucha are fake.

Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Stano said that “the perpetrators of all these violations and war crimes will be held accountable,” adding, “government officials and military leaders will be held accountable.”

Stano stated that the European Union will fully support “the investigation which was launched by the International Criminal Court prosecutor, and we also support fully the work of the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights Commission of Inquiry.”

The EU is also “assisting the Ukrainian Prosecutor General and civil society which is focused on collection and preservation of evidence of the war crimes,” he continued.


Ukraine’s Human Rights commissioner says Russia’s treatment of prisoners of war violates Geneva Conventions

Ukraine’s Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova stated Monday that Russia’s treatment of prisoners of war violates the Geneva Conventions.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Denisova said that released Ukrainian soldiers have “told of the inhumane treatment of them by the Russian side: they were kept in a field, in a pit, in a garage. Periodically, one was taken out: beaten with rifle butts, shots fired next to their ear, intimidated.”

“The prisoners of war were taken away in an unknown direction and housed in a tent camp in temperatures of -20 degrees, as a result of which many boys had frostbite. They were treated like convicts, morally oppressed, and a dog was set on them while they were walking in the yard,” Denisova continued.

She added that some had been “starved for several days.”

Article 13 of the Geneva Convention on POWs states that “prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.”

Denisova called on “the UN Commission for Investigation Human Rights Violations of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine and the expert mission set up by the OSCE participating States under the Moscow Mechanism to take into account these violations of the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war.”


Pentagon can’t ‘independently confirm’ atrocities in Bucha: Official

The United States military is not in a position to independently confirm Ukrainian accounts of atrocities by Russian forces against civilians in the town of Bucha, but has no reason to dispute the accounts either, a senior US defence official has said.

“We’re seeing the same imagery that you are. We have no reason whatsoever to refute the Ukrainian claims about these atrocities – clearly, deeply, deeply troubling,” the official told reporters at a Pentagon briefing on condition of anonymity.

“The Pentagon can’t independently and single-handedly confirm that, but we’re also not in any position to refute those claims,” the official added.


Germany to expel ‘significant number’ of Russian diplomats

UK: Russia must be suspended from UN Human Rights Council

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stated on Monday that Russia must be suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council over the discovery of bodies and mass graves found in Bucha, Ukraine.

“Given strong evidence of war crimes, including reports of mass graves and heinous butchery in Bucha, Russia cannot remain a member of the UN Human Rights Council,” she said on Twitter.

“Russia must be suspended,” she added.


Ukraine accuses Russian forces of blocking Mariupol evacuation efforts

Buses meant for the rescue of civilians from Mariupol have not been able to reach the city, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has stated.

Iryna Vereshchuk noted in a televised address that Russian forces were blocking efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to safely evacuate people to elsewhere in Ukraine.

Efforts to organise mass evacuations from Mariupol have repeatedly faltered in recent weeks, with both sides trading blame for the failures.


Chinese FM says Beijing not pursuing interests in Ukrainian conflict

China is not trying to reap any geopolitical benefit from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday.

“China is not pursuing geopolitical interests with regards to the Ukrainian issue, is not ‘observing the fire from the opposite shore,’ let alone adding fuel to the fire,” Wang said in a phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, as quoted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The Chinese foreign minister stated that Beijing’s aim is to resolve the conflict and welcomed the Russian-Ukrainian negotiations.


Biden vows more sanctions on Russia over Bucha killings

President Joe Biden on Monday said he believes Russia committed war crimes in the Ukrainian city of Bucha and pledged to impose further sanctions on Moscow.

“This guy is brutal and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone has seen it,” Biden told reporters upon arriving at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I think it is a war crime,” he added.

Biden stated that he is seeking further evidence collection for a possible “war crimes trial” against Putin.

“Well, the truth of the matter, you saw what happened in Bucha. [Putin] is a war criminal. But we have to gather the information. We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue to fight and we have to get all the details so we can have a war crimes trial,” Biden told reporters.

“I am seeking more sanctions,” Biden stated, declining to specify what those penalties would look like.


UN rights chief demands Bucha inquiry

The UN’s high commissioner for human rights has called for “independent and effective investigations” into the reports of Russian forces killing civilians in Bucha.

Michelle Bachelet announced in a statement that she was “horrified by the images of civilians lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves.”

“It is vital that all efforts are made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families,” she said.

Bachelet added that “reports emerging from this and other areas raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law.”


Mariupol ’90 percent’ destroyed: Mayor

Russia’s relentless bombardment of Mariupol in recent weeks has destroyed nearly all of the city’s infrastructure, its mayor has said.

“The sad news is that 90 percent of the infrastructure in the city is destroyed and 40 percent is unrecoverable,” Vadym Boichenko told a news conference.

He added that about 130,000 people remain trapped in the city, where they face increasingly desperate conditions as stocks of vital supplies dwindle.

The besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol is “on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe,” with over 100,000 people still requiring evacuation, Boichenko warned.


Lithuania & Latvia expel Russian envoys

Lithuania and Latvia have announced the decision to downgrade their diplomatic relations with Russia, ordering Moscow’s ambassadors to leave the two Baltic states.

The country’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, announced on Monday that Lithuania’s diplomatic representative would also be recalled from Moscow in the coming days.

“In response to Russia’s relentless aggressive actions in Ukraine, the Lithuanian government has made the decision to downgrade the status of diplomatic representation,” Landsbergis said, speaking to journalists.

“The Russian ambassador will have to leave Lithuania,” he added.

Lithuania’s government announced on Saturday that it has halted all purchases of Russian natural gas, making irrelevant President Vladimir Putin’s demand that all “unfriendly states” pay for the fuel in rubles amid heavy sanctions imposed on Moscow over the Ukraine conflict.

Shortly after the Lithuanian decision was announced, Latvia announced that it would also expel the Russian ambassador and recall its envoy from Moscow.


EU to consider new sanctions against Russia as matter of urgency

The European Union intends to urgently consider new sanctions against Russia over deaths of civilians in Bucha, the Ukrainian city northwest of Kiev recently vacated by Russian forces, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated on Monday.

“The EU will continue to firmly support Ukraine and will advance, as a matter of urgency, work on further sanctions against Russia,” Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the bloc.

The EU top diplomat added that Russia’s responsibility for the events in Bucha is “subject to the international law”.


EU & Ukraine will jointly investigate alleged Russian war crimes & crimes against humanity

The European Union on Monday announced it has established a joint investigation team with Ukraine to probe alleged Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity after shocking images emerged from the town of Bucha in the aftermath of Russian forces withdrawing from the area.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen offered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky her condolences on the “dreadful murders” that were revealed over the weekend in what she described as “harrowing mages” in a news release.

“The EU is ready to reinforce this effort by sending investigation teams on the ground to support the Ukrainian Prosecution Services. Eurojust and Europol are ready to assist,” she said.

“A global response is necessary. There are ongoing talks between Eurojust and the International Criminal Court to join forces and for the Court to be part of the Joint Investigation Team. Such a coordinated approach from the Ukrainian authorities, the EU, its Member States and agencies, and the International Criminal Court will allow for the evidence to be collected, analysed and processed in the most complete and effective way possible,” she added.

“I have tasked Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders to follow-up and take contact with the Ukrainian Prosecutor General. The Commission will provide all the necessary technical and financial support to all EU-led investigations,” she continued.


Zelensky visits Bucha

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has visited Bucha, agency video shows, after images of civilian bodies found strewn across a street sparked international outrage.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
President Volodymyr Zelensky walks in the town of Bucha, just northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on April 4, 2022.

He addressed the cameras with him briefly. Wearing a flak jacket and surrounded by security, he talked about “key leaders of leading countries who made the decisions whether Ukraine should be a NATO member.”

“I think they should come here and see how these games, how this flirting with the Russian federation ends,” he stated.

Zelensky said it has become harder for Ukraine to negotiate with Russia because of the scale of alleged atrocities carried out by Moscow’s troops.

“It’s very difficult to conduct negotiations when you see what they did here,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated, adding that in the town and other places “dead people have been found in barrels, basements, strangled, [and] tortured.”

“These are war crimes and will be recognised by the world as genocide,” Zelensky continued.

Ukraine wants to “show the world” what happened in Bucha, noted Zelensky, vowing that the country will “not pause” until it finds those accountable.

Mayor Anatoliy Fedoruk told CNN’s New Day’s Brianna Keilar via a translator, “We will not forgive the Russian people for the atrocities that happened here.”

He stated that “half the city is destroyed” and the city is now busy “transitioning from a war footing to peacetime living.”

They are working on identifying the bodies of the civilians who were shot dead, who mayor Fedoruk said “were indiscriminately killed by the Russian occupiers. A lot of them are elderly people.”

“We get the impression that the Russian occupiers have got the green light from [Vladimir] Putin and [Sergei] Shoigu, the Russian Defence Minister, to have a safari in Ukraine, and they weren’t able to take Kyiv, so they vented their frustration on Bucha and the surrounding areas,” he added.


Ukrainian official: Kyiv investigating alleged ‘war crimes’

Ukraine’s prosecutor general has accused Russian forces of carrying out a number of “crimes against humanity” and says Kyiv is investigating a number of cases involving their actions in the region around Ukraine’s capital.

Speaking on national television, Iryna Venediktova said the situation in the town of Borodyanka was the worst in the Kyiv region in terms of the number of victims. She gave no further details.


Russia imposes visa restrictions on citizens of ‘unfriendly countries’

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday introducing visa restrictions for citizens of countries that Moscow deems “unfriendly” in response to sanctions over Ukraine.

The decree, which comes into force on Monday, suspends Russia’s simplified visa issuance regime with some European Union countries as well as Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland.

It also ordered the Russian foreign ministry and other bodies to decide on introducing personal entry restrictions on “foreign citizens and stateless people who commit unfriendly actions against Russia, its citizens or its legal entities.”

Last month the Russian government approved a list of unfriendly countries including United States, Canada, Britain, EU states and Ukraine, among others.


US pushes to suspend Russia from Human Rights Council

The United States will ask the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, Washington’s ambassador to the world body has said.

“Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce. And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to remove them,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield stated during a visit to Bucharest.

Russia is currently in the second year of a three-year term on the Geneva-based council.

A two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member assembly in New York can suspend a state from the council for persistently committing gross and systematic violations of human rights during its membership.


Red Cross unable to enter Mariupol due to ‘security conditions’

Staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have again been unable to enter Mariupol, a spokesperson for the aid agency stated.

Jason Straziuso told the Reuters news agency that the latest effort to deliver aid to the besieged, southeastern port city and evacuate civilians from there had been hampered by “security conditions” in the area.

Several previous attempts by the ICRC to reach Mariupol over recent days and weeks also proved unsuccessful.


Russian troops no longer hold any settlements in Sumy: Regional governor

The governor of Ukraine’s northeastern region of Sumy says Russian troops no longer occupy any towns or villages there.

Speaking on national television, Governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi noted Moscow’s forces had mostly withdrawn from the region, which lies on Ukraine’s border with Belarus.

He added Ukrainian troops were working to push out the remaining units and alleged that Russian soldiers had abandoned a lot of equipment as they pulled back.


Britain wants Germany to get tougher with Russia

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is hoping to persuade German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz to step up pressure on Russia when the two leaders meet in London on Friday, the Times reported.

According to the outlet, London is concerned that other NATO allies will force Ukraine to “settle” the conflict as soon as possible, while London strongly opposes the idea of signing a peace deal with Russia at any cost, insisting that Kiev should first of all be in the strongest possible position.

Johnson is reportedly going to urge Scholz to exert more diplomatic, economic and military pressure on Moscow.

On Sunday, the British premier vowed to slap Russia with yet more sanctions and provide additional military support to Kiev. Johnson cited the alleged killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, accusing the Russian military of committing atrocities and promising that the UK “will not rest until justice is served.”

Scholz, too, joined the chorus of indignation, saying that his government would make sure that “Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences” of their actions. German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock revealed plans to “toughen the sanctions against Russia and further support Ukraine,” – a message also echoed by Germany’s Vice Chancellor and economy minister, Robert Habeck.


Kremlin: Russia categorically rejects claims of involvement in deaths of people in Bucha

Russian presidential spokesman Dmirty Peskov has lambasted accusations against Moscow regarding the situation in the settlement of Bucha near Kiev and stated that the issue will be discussed at the United Nations.

“We categorically reject any accusations. Moreover, we believe that this issue should be discussed at the highest possible level,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

“So there was our initiative to raise this issue in the Security Council. We know that this initiative was blocked,” he added.

Peskov stressed that the facts and the sequence of events also speak against the reliability of Ukraine’s claims.

“The situation is certainly serious. And here, in fact, we would probably demand that many international leaders, in particular, not rush to make statements, not rush to sweeping accusations, but that they request information from various sources and, at least listen to our arguments,” he continued.

The spokesman noted that specialists from the Ministry of Defence have revealed signs of video forgeries and various fakes regarding the materials from Bucha.

Peskov added that the Kremlin is not commenting on the prospects for the resumption of Russia-Ukraine talks after the reports about mass killings.

“We are not commenting on this yet. I do not have information yet about the schedule for the continuation of negotiations, I do not know about it,” he said.


Fear grows for migrants held in Ukrainian detention centre

Concerns have been raised about a European Union-funded migrant detention centre near the city of Lutsk, in northwestern Ukraine.

The facility appears to continue to hold an unconfirmed number of migrants despite Russia’s invasion.


Mayor: Russian strike kills one and injures five in Mykolaiv

Oleksandr Syenkevych, the mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, has told CNN that one person was killed and five others were injured in early morning missile strikes on Monday.


Chernihiv governor says some Russian troops still in region

Some Russian troops are still present in Ukraine’s northern region of Chernihiv, its governor has said.

Viacheslav Chaus stated an unspecified number of soldiers remained in the area after pulling back from around the region’s main city of the same name.

Russia announced last week it would sharply scale back military activity around Chernihiv and the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.


Russia orders inquiry into Ukrainian ‘provocation’ over civilian deaths in Bucha

Russia’s chief investigator stated he has ordered an official examination of what he called a Ukrainian “provocation” after Kyiv accused the Russian military of massacring civilians in the town of Bucha.

Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee, ordered that an inquiry be opened on the basis that Ukraine had spread “deliberately false information” about Russian armed forces in Bucha, the committee announced in a statement.


FM: False-flag op conducted in Bucha after Russian troop withdrawal

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called the situation around the Ukrainian city of Bucha a “yet another fake attack” that Ukraine attempts to use against Russia.

Lavrov outlined that Moscow views the Bucha “provocation” as a potential threat to international security.

“We requested an urgent meeting of the Security Council on this specific issue because we see such provocations as a direct threat to international peace and security,” he said during a meeting with Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths.

According to the top Russian diplomat, the horrifying scenes in Bucha were “staged” after Russian troops left the city, with the Ukrainian authorities, induced by their “Western patrons”, promoting “fake videos” from Bucha via social media.

“Russian servicemen left this city on 30 March, on 31 March the mayor of the city solemnly said that everything was in order, and two days later we saw how that very performance was organised on the streets, which they are now trying to use for anti-Russian purposes,” Lavrov explained.

Lavrov’s remarks come after the Ukrainian and Western media fuelled accusations that Russia was behind the mass killing of civilians in the city of Bucha, spreading footage that allegedly showed bodies strewn across the streets of the town in the Kiev region. Moscow has categorically denied that Russia was behind the killings, calling the footage from Bucha “another provocation” produced by Kiev specially for the Western media.


Greece calls for those responsible for “horrific crimes” in Bucha to be punished

Greece joined a host of countries in “unequivocally” condemning the atrocities revealed over the weekend after Russian forces withdrew from Bucha, Ukraine.

In a statement, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs described scenes of civilian corpses lying strewn across the streets of Bucha as “horrific crimes committed during the withdrawal of the Russian occupation forces against Ukrainian unarmed civilians.”

The statement continued: “Those responsible for these crimes must be held accountable. We call for the immediate investigation of the crimes and the punishment of those responsible.”


Moscow will demand UNSC meeting over situation in Bucha

Russia will once again request to hold a UN Security Council meeting on the matter of the Ukrainian city of Bucha after a previous request did not receive approval from the UK – another permanent member of the council, the Russian Foreign Ministry has stated.
“Yesterday […] the British presidency of the UN Security Council did not agree to a meeting of the Security Council on the situation in Bucha. Russia today will again demand the convening of the UN Security Council in connection with the criminal provocations by the Ukrainian military and radicals in this city”, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Monday.

Moscow originally requested the UNSC meeting to be held on 4 April. Russia wanted to devote the meeting to discussions about the Ukrainian “provocation” in the city of Bucha in the Kiev region and a new “crime by the Kiev regime” – the disruption of peace talks and escalation of violence, Zakharova added.

The Russian Defence Ministry earlier slammed photos and video footage allegedly showing the bodies of civilians scattered around the streets of Bucha as staged by Ukrainian authorities to spread them in the Western media and accuse Russian troops of killing them. The Defence Ministry pointed out that Russian forces left the city on 30 March and that the town’s mayor reported no bodies on the streets when he confirmed their departure the next day.


Russia’s aerospace forces eliminate two Ukrainian command centers

The strategic aviation of Russia’s Aerospace Forces has struck 14 Ukrainian military targets overnight, including two command centers and two Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov told journalists on Monday.

Konashenkov said the Russian armed forces had destroyed three Ukrainian combat helicopters in a strike that targeted an airfield outside the city of Nikolayev.

He added Russian air defence systems shot down six Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the air over Nikolayev as well as the city of Kherson and the settlements of Kurakhovka, Industrialnoye, and Velikaya Novosyolka.

He stated since the beginning of the special operation, the Russian military has destroyed a total of 125 aircraft, 91 helicopters, 392 UAVs, and 226 anti-aircraft missile systems of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Additionally, 1,936 tanks and other armoured combat vehicles, 211 multiple rocket launchers, 833 field artillery guns and mortars, as well as 1,810 special military vehicles of the Ukrainian Army have been destroyed, according to Konashenkov.


Moscow: West seeks to punish Russia politically by expelling diplomats

The expulsion of Russian diplomats makes it clear that the West seeks to punish Moscow politically, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Rossiya-1’s Sunday Night with Vladimir Solovyov.

“It is the collective West’s deliberate position, aimed at accusing us of creating the crisis and punishing [Russia] politically,” she pointed out.

According to Zakharova, some countries don’t even bother to deny it, stating that there is a political aspect to these actions.

“The only goal is to make everything possible to <…> deplete Russian embassies and make them unable to resist information and political attacks,” Zakharova noted.


Ukraine calls for ICC investigation into Bucha killings

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the apparent killing of civilians in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv.

Sharing an interview with the UK’s Times Radio on social media, Kuleba stated, “I take this opportunity to call on the International Criminal Court and international organizations to send their missions to Bucha and other liberated towns, in cooperation with Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, to collect all the evidence of these war crimes.”

Kuleba accused Russian troops of killing civilians “out of anger” while occupying and later withdrawing from Bucha.

Leaders across the European Union and NATO were quick to denounce the civilian deaths, with some calling for accountability and investigations for war crimes. Russia has dismissed photos of the dead as fake.


Bodies of at least 400 Ukrainian civilians found in Kyiv region, with fears of many more to come

The bodies of civilians in the Kyiv region continue to be discovered following the departure of Russian forces, with at least 400 found so far, Ukrainian officials stated Monday citing preliminary information.

Efforts to find local residents who stayed behind under Russian occupation have been hampered by the presence of mines, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy said in televised remarks.

“I’ve talked to rescuers. They’ve made paths to some houses,” he added.

“In other towns (in Kyiv region), the paths are mined. Rescuers say they are moving step by step now, and do not name the number of civilians killed. This figure will obviously be counted in hundreds. Many locals are reported missing. It is being established who was abducted or tortured by the Russians, who disappeared and did not return,” he continued.

Naming locations such as Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel, interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko noted approximately 400 civilians have been found dead in the Kyiv region but stipulated those figures were preliminary and would be updated.


UK to call for tougher sanctions against Russia

British foreign secretary Liz Truss will visit Poland on Monday to call for tougher action to tackle Russian aggression and to support Ukraine in peace talks, her office said in a statement.

“[President Vladimir] Putin is yet to show he is serious about diplomacy. A tough approach from the UK and our allies is vital to strengthen Ukraine’s hand in negotiations,” Truss stated


Up to 100 Russian diplomats to be expelled from Germany

The German authorities are preparing to expel up to 100 employees of the Russian embassy from the country. According to Bild, Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered to work out the corresponding measure.

Earlier, the Süddeutschen Zeitung newspaper wrote about this initiative, indicating that the government was considering sending a “significant” number of Russian diplomats to their homeland.

According to the daily, there were disagreements among the authorities on this issue.

The expulsion of Russian diplomats was discussed by the Chancellery, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but the government doubted whether it made any sense.


France: New sanctions on Russia needed after Bucha killings

French President Emmanuel Macron stated more sanctions on Russia are needed after Ukraine accused Russian forces of the killings of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

Macron told France Inter radio that there were “very clear clues” indicating that Russian forces were responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.

Macron said it’s “his wish” to see a total block on Russian exports of coal and oil to the European Union “this week.”

The president added he would have discussions with his European partners this week regarding further sanctions.

Russia on Sunday denied its forces were responsible for the deaths of civilians in the town of Bucha and said Ukraine had staged a performance for the Western media.


Japan condemns civilian deaths around Kyiv, calls for Russian accountability

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida denounced the killing of civilians in the Kyiv region in a statement on social media Monday.

“I am deeply shocked at the fact that on the outskirts of Kyiv terrible atrocities have been perpetrated against civilians,” Kishida stated.

“The killing of innocent civilians violates international humanitarian law. It is absolutely intolerable and Japan condemns it in the strongest terms,” he added

The Japanese Prime Minister also called for action saying, “Russia must be held strictly accountable for those acts.”


Polish PM calls for international probe into Ukraine ‘genocide’

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday called for an international investigation into what he termed a “genocide” carried out by Russian troops in Ukraine.

“We are proposing an international commission to investigate this crime of genocide,” he said, referring to the apparent killing of civilians in towns including Bucha near the capital Kyiv.

Morawiecki stated Germany is the main roadblock to imposing tougher sanctions on Russia, adding that Hungary was not blocking them.

Morawiecki’s comment comes after Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a national election on Sunday after facing criticism over an insufficiently tough stance on Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“We have to see that, regardless of how we approach Hungary, this is the fourth such win and we have to respect democratic elections … it’s Germany that is the main roadblock on sanctions. Hungary is for the sanctions,” Morawiecki continued.


Spanish PM sees possible ‘genocide’ in Ukraine

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated Monday he saw signs of a possible “genocide” in Ukraine after claims that Russian forces committed atrocities against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv.

“We will do everything to ensure that those who have perpetrated these war crimes do not go unpunished, and therefore appear before the courts… to deal with these alleged cases of [crimes against] humanity, war crimes and why not say it too, genocide,” he noted.

“Vladimir Putin’s unjustified aggression has brought war back to the gates of the European Union,” he told an economic forum in Madrid.

Sanchez is one of the first European Union leaders to label Russia’s actions in Ukraine a “genocide”.


Ukraine’s agriculture minister warns of global food prices

Ukraine’s agriculture minister says he expects “quite a large harvest” this year and hopes Kyiv will be able to export grain, but warned that continuation of the war would mean higher prices for all countries.

Mykola Solskyi added the situation was “difficult” with fuel, which is needed for spring fields.


Ukraine: 161 children killed in Russia’s war

Ukrainian prosecutors say at least 161 children have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

Some 425 have been wounded, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced.

Most of them lost their lives in the southeastern Donetsk region that is partially controlled by separatists and Russian troops (78), around Kyiv (75) and the eastern region of Kharkiv (59), it added.


Ukraine forces repel Russian attacks in Donetsk, Luhansk regions

Ukraine’s army says they repelled seven Russian attacks overnight in the southeastern Donetsk and Luhansk region, where Russia concentrated its offensive after retreating from around Kyiv.

Ukrainian air defence forces shot down three Russian planes, one helicopter and two cruise missiles, the army added.


Analyst: Meeting of Russian, Ukrainian presidents in Turkey unlikely

Iran’s former ambassador in Ukraine says the complexity of the situation in Ukraine makes the possibility of a meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents in Turkey unlikely at the present time.


Satellite images show long trench at Ukrainian mass grave site

Satellite images show a 45-foot-longtrench dug into the grounds of a Ukrainian church where a mass grave was found this week after Russian forces withdrew from the town of Bucha, a private US company said.

Journalists who visited Bucha on Saturday saw bodies lying on the streets of the town, 37 km (23 miles) northwest of the capital Kyiv. A mass grave at one church was still open, with hands and feet poking through the red clay heaped on top.

Ukraine accused Russian forces on Sunday of carrying out a “massacre” in the town, one of many recaptured by Ukrainian troops as Russia regrouped for battles in eastern Ukraine. Russia denied the allegations, calling them a “provocation” by Ukraine.

Maxar Technologies, which collects and publishes satellite imagery of Ukraine, announced the first signs of excavation for a mass grave at the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints were seen on March 10.

“More recent coverage on March 31st shows the grave site with an approximately 45-foot-long trench in the southwestern section of the area near the church,” Maxar added.


UK: Russian forces continue to refocus their offensive into the Donbas region

British military intelligence announced Russian forces are continuing to consolidate and reorganise as they refocus their offensive into the Donbas region in the east of Ukraine.

Russian troops, including mercenaries from the Russian state-linked Wagner private military company, are being moved into the area, the Ministry of Defence tweeted in a regular bulletin.


Russia says footage in Ukraine’s Bucha was ‘ordered’ to blame Moscow

Russia’s foreign ministry says footage of dead civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha had been “ordered” by the United States as part of a plot to blame Russia.

“Who are the masters of provocation? Of course the United States and NATO,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated in an interview on state television.

Zakharova added the immediate Western outcry over the images of dead civilians indicated the story had been part of a plan to sully Russia’s reputation.

“In this case, it seems to me that the fact that these statements (about Russia) were made in the first minutes after these materials appeared leaves no doubt as to who ‘ordered’ this story,” she continued.


Zelensky makes surprise appearance at Grammys

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise appearance at the Grammy Awards, urging viewers in pre-taped remarks to “fill the silence with your music.”

“What’s more opposite to music?” Zelensky asked on Sunday in the video reportedly filmed in recent days from a bunker in Kyiv.

“The silence of ruined cities and killed people,” he said.

“Our loved ones don’t know if we will be together again. The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence,” he continued, adding, “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals — even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway.”


Russian forces withdrawing from Sumy: Governor

Russian forces are withdrawing from northeastern Sumy and are taking their equipment with them, according to the region’s governor.

In a Telegram post, Dmytro Zhyvytsky claimed Ukrainian forces had pushed the Russian troops out, but warned that small groups of soldiers may still remain.


UN confirms 1,417 civilian deaths in Ukraine

The UN human rights office says it has verified 1,417 civilian deaths in Ukraine, but states the actual toll is “considerably higher” as figures from areas such as Mariupol and Irpin are yet to be corroborated.

In its latest update, the agency announced the victims include 121 children. It added that 2,038 others have been wounded.


US ‘likely’ to ramp up sanctions pressure against Russia after Zelensky’s pleas

Speaking about sanctions measures, the spokesman went on to say that “[…] we’ve always stated that we will continue applying pressure on President [Vladimir] Putin, on the Kremlin, on all of those around him, including oligarchs and cronies, who are empowering this war of choice against Ukraine, until and unless the Kremlin deescalates, until and unless the violence diminishes, and until and unless these kinds of atrocities come to an end”.

“So I suspect you will very soon see additional pressure applied,” he noted.

Earlier, the Ukrainian media and authorities had accused Russia of committing “genocide”, and a number of politicians called for the extermination of Russians in general. The country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky even, when addressing Russian mothers, swore at them for raising “b***ards”.

Zelensky got a green light from Washington to offer Russia relief from international sanctions in exchange for ending its military offensive against the former Soviet republic.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken opened the door to such an offer on Sunday, confirming in an NBC News interview that Zelensky has the ability to negotiate sanctions relief for peace. He said President Joe Biden’s administration will support whatever the Ukrainian people want to do to bring the war to an end.

“We’ll be looking to see what Ukraine is doing and what it wants to do,” Blinken stated, adding, “And if it concludes that it can bring this war to an end, stop the death and destruction and continue to assert its independence and its sovereignty – and ultimately that requires the lifting of sanctions – of course, we will allow that.”

Several killed in Kharkiv attack

Russian shelling of Kharkiv has killed at least seven people and wounded 34, including three children, according to the city’s prosecutor’s office.

In a Telegram post, the prosecutor’s office announced 10 houses and a trolleybus depot were damaged in the attack on Sunday evening.


Ukraine military claims control of towns in Chernihiv region

The Ukrainian military claims that its forces have retaken some towns in the Chernihiv region and that humanitarian aid is being delivered.

The news agency RBK Ukraina reports the road between Chernihiv and the capital of Kyiv is to reopen to some traffic later on Monday.

Chernihiv is a city 80 miles (129km) north of Kyiv and it had been cut off from shipments of food and other supplies for weeks. Its mayor has said that relentless Russian shelling had destroyed 70 percent of the city.


Zelensky pledges to continue Russia talks despite atrocities in Ukraine

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has told the CBS network that he remained committed to peace talks with Russia despite the “atrocities” Russian forces were committing in his country.

“It’s difficult to say how, after all what has been done, we can have any kind of negotiations with Russia. That’s on the personal level. But as a president, I have to do it. Any war has to end,” he said in an excerpt of the interview posted on Facebook.

“There’s no any other way, but the dialogue, if we don’t want hundreds of thousands, millions to die,” he added.

In a video address, Zelensky called for an end to Russian “war crimes.”

His address came after reports of dozens of bodies found in the streets and mass graves in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

“The world has already seen many war crimes. At different times. On different continents. But it is time to do everything possible to make the war crimes of the Russian military the last manifestation of such evil on earth,” Zelensky said.

The president called on Russian leaders to be held accountable for the actions of the nation’s military.

“I want all the leaders of the Russian Federation to see how their orders are being fulfilled. Such orders. Such a fulfillment. And joint responsibility. For these murders, for these tortures, for these arms torn off by explosions that lie on the streets. For shots in the back of the head of tied people. This is how the Russian state will now be perceived. This is your image,” he added.


UK military intelligence says heavy fighting continues in Mariupol

Heavy fighting has continued in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol as Russian forces attempt to take the strategic port city, British military intelligence has said.

“The city continues to be subject to intense, indiscriminate strikes but Ukrainian forces maintain a staunch resistance, retaining control in central areas,” the Ministry of Defence added.


Moscow claims Kyiv attempts to disrupt peace talks with Bucha ‘provocation’

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says Moscow requested a UN Security Council meeting to discuss Kyiv’s attempts to disrupt peace talks and escalate violence with a “provocation” in Bucha.

“Russian Federation requested a meeting of the U.N. Security Council in connection with the provocation of the Ukrainian military and radicals in the city of Bucha,” Zakharova wrote on her Telegram channel.

“The idea behind the next crime of the ‘Kyiv’s regime’ is the disruption of peace negotiations and the escalation of violence,” she added.


Canada: Russia must be held accountable for Ukraine civilian deaths

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the “egregious and appalling” killings of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, saying Russia must be held to account.

“We strongly condemn the murder of civilians in Ukraine, remain committed to holding the Russian regime accountable,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

“Those responsible for these egregious and appalling attacks will be brought to justice,” he added.

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