Thursday, February 29, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 41

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. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

EU expels 19 Russian diplomats from Belgium

The European Union says 19 Russian diplomats are being expelled from Belgium.

“I decided to designate persona non grata a number of officials of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the EU for engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status,” stated EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a video statement.

He added the Russian envoy was being summoned to the EU to explain the move.

US will announce new sanction package on Russia tomorrow: Biden administration official

The US will announce new sanctions on Russia Wednesday in coordination with G7 nations and the European Union, according to a member of US President Joe Biden’s administration, who said the sweeping package “will impose significant costs on Russia and send it further down the road of economic, financial, and technological isolation.”

The new sanctions package will ban all new investment in Russia, increase sanctions on financial institutions and state-owned enterprises in Russia and sanction Russian government officials and their family members.

“These measures will degrade key instruments of Russian state power, impose acute and immediate economic harm on Russia, and hold accountable the Russian kleptocracy that funds and supports Putin’s war,” the official stated.

“These measures will be taken in lock step with our allies and partners, demonstrating our resolve and unity in imposing unprecedented costs on Russia for its war against Ukraine,” the official noted.

The official added, “We had already concluded that Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine, and the information from Bucha appears to show further evidence of war crimes. And as the President said, we will work with the world to ensure there is full accountability for these crimes. One of those tools is sanctions — and we have been working intensively with our European allies on further sanctions.”

Johnson: Russian people ‘deserve the facts’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the Russian people to find out the truth about President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine for themselves.

In a video message directed to the Russian population, he stated they only needed an online VPN connection to gain access to independent information from around the world.

Romania expels 10 Russian embassy employees

Romania is expelling 10 employees of the Russian embassy in Bucharest, the Romanian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on its website on Tuesday.

“The Romanian government decided to declare 10 people working in the Russian Embassy in Bucharest as personae non gratae on Romanian territory, believing that their activities run contrary to the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961,” the statement added.

Western countries have expelled a total of more than 300 Russian diplomats since the start of Russia’s special operation in Ukraine.

Portugal to expel 10 Russian embassy staff

Portugal will expel 10 staff members of the Russian embassy in Lisbon, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, joining other European Union countries in their response to alleged war crimes by Russian troops in Ukraine.

The foreign ministry announced in a statement the staff members had been declared “personae non gratae” and given two weeks to leave Portugal.

None of the expelled workers are diplomats, it added.

Images of dead civilians from Bucha ‘very disturbing’: China

The reports and images showing civilian deaths in Bucha are “very disturbing”, China’s ambassador to the United Nations said.

However, he added the circumstances should be verified and any accusations should be based on facts.

Speaking at a Security Council meeting, Ambassador Zhang Jun repeated Beijing’s stance that sanctions are not effective in solving the Ukraine crisis but instead they accelerate the economic spillover.

He also called the United States, NATO and the European Union to engage in a dialogue with Russia.

Allegations against Russia regarding Bucha ‘ungrounded’: UN ambassador

Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia in his remarks to Volodymyr Zelensky at the UNSC said Moscow places “on your conscience the ungrounded accusations against the Russian military, which are not confirmed by any eye witnesses”.

Russia has claimed that images presented by Ukrainian authorities to show there had been a massacre in Bucha were fake, or that the deaths occurred after Russian soldiers pulled out of the areas.

“You only saw what they showed you. You couldn’t ignore the flagrant inconsistencies in the version of events which are being promoted by Ukrainian and Western media,” the ambassador added

Le Drian: Events in Ukraine ‘resurrected’ NATO, ‘awakened’ EU

Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine has already caused three main consequences: ‘awakening’ of the EU, ‘resurrection’ of NATO and cohesion of the Ukrainian nation, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview for Die Welt, published Tuesday.

“It [operation] has caused awakening on three directions. First, it has reinforced the Ukrainian nation,” Le Drian stated, adding, “Second, it has led to an awakening inside the EU.”

According to the top diplomat, “Europe has asserted itself as a power, remained united and proved that it can swiftly make even long-reaching decisions.”

The foreign minister emphasized that this is not the same Europe that was before the Russian operation in Ukraine.

According to Le Drian, the EU decided to put an end to its energy dependence from Russia and to reinforce its defenses, by approving the first defense strategy of the Union – the EU Strategic Compass – and by establishing its rapid response forces.

“And, last but not the least: the war has also resurrected NATO,” Le Drian concluded.

Truss: Sanctions pushing Russian economy ‘back to the Soviet era’

Western sanctions are pushing the Russian economy back into “the Soviet era”, Liz Truss said as she demanded even tougher action to stop the war in Ukraine.

EU governments will be asked to back a ban on imports of Russian coal on Wednesday, which will be the first time the bloc has hit Kremlin-controlled energy imports with sanctions.

The Foreign Secretary added existing sanctions were having a “crippling impact”, as she announced Britain had stopped hundreds of billions of pounds funding Vladimir Putin’s war.

Slovenia expels 33 Russian diplomats

The Slovenian government announced Tuesday that 33 Russian diplomats were being expelled after bodies were found in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where Kyiv has accused Russian forces of a massacre.

Estonia expels Russian diplomats, closes two consular offices

Estonia will expel 14 of Russia’s consular staff and close consular offices in Narva and Tartu, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.

“There can be no talk of business as usual,” officials added.

Lavrov: West tries to sabotage Russia-Ukraine talks with Bucha hysteria

The West is trying to sabotage negotiations between Russia and Ukraine by fueling the hype around the Bucha provocation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.

The top Russian official noted that the provocation in Bucha took place just as Ukraine rolled out possible peace suggestions, including those regarding Crimea.

Should such attempts by the West continue, there is a risk negotiations between Russia and Ukraine will repeat the fate of the Minsk agreements – something that “should not happen”, the minister added.

UN says it has received ‘credible’ claims of Russian forces using cluster bombs

The UN’s undersecretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs says the world body has received “credible” allegations that Russian forces have used indiscriminate cluster munitions at least 24 times in populated parts of Ukraine.

Rosemary DiCarlo told the UN Security Council (UNSC) the global body was “gravely concerned by the persistent use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area,” saying such weapons are causing the most civilian casualties in the war.

She stated that claims that Ukrainian forces have used such weapons were also being investigated.

DiCarlo added that allegations of “conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated by Russian forces” had also emerged.

“These include gang rape and rapes in front of children,” she continued, noting, “There are also claims of sexual violence by Ukrainian forces and civil defense militias.”

At least 1,480 civilians killed and at least 2,195 injured in Ukraine: UN official

At least 1,480 civilians have been killed and at least 2,195 have been injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, said Rosemary DiCarlo, the United Nations’ under secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs.

Citing updated numbers from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, DiCarlo added OHCHR believes the actual figures of civilian casualties to be “considerably higher.”

NATO gathering evidence to hold Putin accountable of “war crimes” in Ukraine: US ambassador to alliance

US Permanent Representative to NATO Julianne Smith said Tuesday that the alliance is gathering evidence to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin and his team accountable for “war crimes” in Ukraine.

“What we have to do is collect the information we need to hold Putin and his team in Moscow accountable, and you can do that through multiple paths there of course is the ICC path. There’s a United Nations option. There are multiple ways to do that,” she stated at a news conference in Brussels.

Answering a question about how United States will help with the investigation to the alleged war crimes committed by the Russian forces in Ukraine, Smith noted, “First and foremost, what we want to do is ensure that we expose the truth and in order to expose the truth and fully understand what is happening on the ground we need to collect as much information as possible.”

“We are now relying on first-hand accounts from Ukrainian citizens. We are seeing some international organizations, NGOs are starting to collect information as well. Putting together a narrative, trying to put together some sense of what has gone on, as we’ve looked again at these horrific images coming out of Bucha, but, but possibly in other locations as well,” she added.

Smith cautioned that it is “too soon to say definitively what happened” in Bucha and other cities where alleged war crimes have been committed by Russia, but added that “we’re quite confident that […] we will be able to put together the evidence we need to hold Putin accountable.”

She said that one of NATO’s strategies to take preventive actions in Ukraine has been to try to get out ahead of Putin’s “strategic choices.”

“If you call them out on what we believe they might be planning maybe that alters, his calculus, a little bit,” the ambassador continued.

US to push for Russia to be suspended from Human Rights Council, calls for the world to “show some backbone”

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations made a case for seeking the suspension of Russia from the Human Rights Council — something she and other UN Member states are calling for, which would require a vote in the General Assembly.

“Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose very purpose is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is it the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said addressing the Security Council Tuesday.

Departing from her prepared remarks, she stated she believes, like the Ukrainian president who spoke moments before her, that “this moment requires responsible world powers and global leaders to show some backbone and stand up to Russia’s dangerous and unprovoked threat against Ukraine and the world.”

She has just returned from Moldova and Romania, telling the Security Council “I saw with my own eyes the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s unconscionable war.”

“We’ve all seen the gruesome photos. Lifeless bodies lying in the streets, apparently summarily executed, their hands tied behind their backs,” she added.

While authorities work to independently confirm the events in the images, she reiterated that the US “has assessed that members of Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.”

“And even before seeing the images from Bucha, President [Volodymyr] Zelensky, along with others in the region, were reporting that children were being abducted –and we heard him say that today. Also abducted are mayors, doctors, religious leaders, journalists, and all who dare defy Russia’s aggression,” she said.

She cited what she called credible reports including by Mariupol’s city council that Russia is funneling individuals through so-called “filtration camps” to relocate individuals to Russia.

“I do not need to spell out what these so-called “filtration camps” are reminiscent of. It’s chilling and we cannot look away,” she added.

“Every day, we see more and more how little Russia respects human rights,” she continued.

Ultimately, she argued, “Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council hurts the Council’s credibility. It undermines the entire UN. And it is just plain wrong.”

Zelensky asks UN Security Council to hold Russia accountable and provide guarantees to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky opened his remarks to the UN Security Council by addressing what he witnessed in Bucha, saying of the Russians who attacked the Kyiv suburb, “there is not a single crime they would not commit there.”

“The Russian military surge and purposefully killed anyone who served our country. They shot and killed women outside their houses when they just tried to call someone who is alive. They killed entire families, adults and children, and they tried to burn the bodies. I am addressing you on behalf of the people who honor the memory of the deceased every single day and the memory of the civilians who died, they were shot and killed in the back of their head after being tortured. Some of them were shot on the streets,” he stated.

He added that the Russians killed civilians in Bucha “just for their pleasure.”

“They cut off limbs, slashed their throats, women raped and killed in front of their children. Their tongues were pulled out only because the aggressor did not hear what they wanted to hear from them,” Zelensky continued.

He noted these actions are no different than “other terrorists.”

Zelensky told the UN Security Council that he expects Russians “will blame everyone just to justify their own actions” in Ukraine.

“They will say that there are various versions, different versions, it’s impossible to establish which ones of those versions is true,” he said, adding, “They will even say that the bodies were, of those were allegedly thrown away and all the videos are staged, but it is 2022 now.”

Zelensky said “we have conclusive evidence that there are satellite images” that show what really happened during the attacks on Bucha, adding, “we can conduct full and transparent investigations.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appears on a screen as he addresses the United Nations Security Council via video link during a meeting, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., April 5, 2022.

Zelensky called for members of the Russian military and “those who gave them orders” to carry out attacks in Ukraine to be tried for “war crimes.”

He called for any Russians who have given “criminal orders” and “carried out them by killing our people” to be brought before a tribunal, similar to the Nuremberg trials that occurred after World War II when Nazis were put on trial.

Zelensky urged the United Nations Security Council to provide security guarantees to Ukraine.

“Where is the security that the Security Council needs to guarantee? It’s not there. Although there is a Security Council. So where is the peace? What are those guarantees that the United Nations need to guarantee?” he asked in his speech.

He stressed accountability for Russia “must be inevitable.”

“I would like to remind you of Article 1, Chapter 1 of the UN Charter. What is the purpose of our organization? Its purpose is to maintain peace,” he said, adding, “And now the UN Charter has been violated literally, starting with Article 1. What is the point of all the other articles?”

Calling the Russian actions as “war crimes,” Zelensky said he wants full and transparent investigations. He added: “Maximum access for journalists, maximum cooperation with international institutions, involvement of the International Criminal Court — complete and full accountability. I’m sure that every member state of the UN should be interested in this. For what? In order to punish once and for all those who consider themselves privileged and believe that they can get away with anything.”

“So, show all the other potential war criminals in the world how they will be punished if the biggest one is punished,” he urged the UN Security Council.

Zelensky called for Russian forces and officials to be held accountable for alleged war crimes in Ukraine and for Moscow to be removed as a member of the UNSC so that it cannot block the body from making decisions about the conflict.

“We are dealing with a state that is turning the veto into the UN Security Council into the right to die,” he said.

“Do you think that the time of international law is gone? If your answer is no, then you need to act immediately,” Zelenskyy added, before accusing Moscow of wanting to turn Ukraine into a country of “silent slaves”.

UN chief says he will ‘never forget’ images of Bucha victims

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has told the UNSC he will “never forget” seeing images of dead civilians in Bucha, adding the war in Ukraine has led to a “senseless loss of life”.

Guterres said he was “equally shocked by the personal testimony of rapes and sexual violence” alleged to have been carried out by Russian forces that are now emerging.

He added that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses one of the greatest challenges ever to the international order “because of its nature, intensity, and consequences”.

Guterres said the war was heaping intense pressure on the developing world, with more than 1.2 billion people particularly vulnerable to spiking food, energy and fertiliser costs as a result of the conflict.

“We are already seeing some countries move from vulnerability into crisis,” he continued.

Top US general: Russia’s invasion is “greatest threat to peace and security” of Europe in 42 years of service

During a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “the greatest threat to peace and security of Europe and perhaps the world” in his 42 years serving in the US military.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is threatening to undermine not only European peace and stability but global peace and stability that my parents and a generation of Americans fought so hard to defend,” Milley added.

Despite the “horrific assault on the institutions of freedom” that Russia has made through this invasion, Milley said, “It is heartening to see the world rally and say ‘never again’ to the specter of war in Europe.”

“Your military stands ready to do whatever is directed in order to maintain peace and stability on the European continent — a peace that ensures global stability and international order where all nations can prosper in peace,” Milley added.

Milley went on to say the world is “becoming more unstable and the potential for significant international conflict is increasing, not decreasing.”

“We are now facing two global powers: China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities both who intend to fundamentally change the rules based current global order,” Milley continued, adding, “We are entering a world that is becoming more unstable and the potential for significant international conflict is increasing, not decreasing.”

Germany says EU will end Russian fossil fuel imports

The European Union’s 27 member states have agreed that they will stop importing fossil fuels from Russia after its forces’ alleged atrocities in Bucha, Germany’s foreign minister says.

“The answer to these war crimes now with the fifth sanctions package at the European level must be that we as a European Union must completely phase out fossil energy dependence on Russia, starting with coal, then oil, and then gas,” Annalena Baerbock said, without providing further details.

Asked by reporters about Ukraine’s request for tanks, she added that the EU’s members were open to exporting further weapons systems to the country.

Kyiv says it needs tanks if it is to push Russia out of its territory rather than just defend existing lines of contact.

Putin: Western partners try to blame economic policy mistakes on Russia

The West is seeking to pin the blame for its economic policy mistakes on Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

“As you know, the situation on the global food market has become noticeably more complicated over the past two years,” Putin stated.

“Mistakes in the economic, energy, and food policies of developed countries led to a sharp rise in food prices around the world two years ago. And the situation has only deteriorated in recent weeks,” he stated.

According to the president, Western nations are also trying to solve problems in the energy sector at Russia’s expense by attempting to nationalise Russian property.

“We can go far if we go like that”, the Russian president warned, adding, “Let no one forget that this is a double-edged weapon”.

The deteriorating situation with food and energy prices is a result of the West’s actions, Putin said.

He pointed at how the work of Russian and Belarusian enterprises is being blocked, and the West’s own production is hindered by high gas prices, which is “also a result of their actions”.

One of the factors worsening the situation in the global energy sector is the pressure that the Russian gas company Gazprom faces, Putin noted.

“The situation in the energy sector is deteriorating as a result of non-market, rude measures, including administrative pressure on our company Gazprom in some European countries,” the president explained.

Putin said the possible nationalisation of Russian assets abroad is “a double-edged weapon” in a thinly-veiled warning that suggests Moscow may respond in kind to any such moves by foreign governments.

Blinken accuses Russia of waging ‘deliberate campaign to commit atrocities’ in Bucha

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Russia of waging a deliberate campaign to commit atrocities in Bucha.

“What we’ve seen in Bucha is not the random act of a rogue unit,” Blinken told reporters before departing for Brussels for a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting at the transatlantic alliance’s headquarters.

“It’s a deliberate campaign to kill, to torture, to rape, to commit atrocities,” he added.

Blinken stated the United States was supporting the efforts of Ukrainian authorities in their investigation of the alleged atrocities.

Russia has denied targeting civilians amid its offensive and accused Ukrainian authorities of fabricating the scenes in Bucha.

Borrell says he decided to expel several employees of Russian permanent Mission in EU

“Today I decided to designate persona non grata a number of officials of the permanent mission of the Russian Federation to the European Union for engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

The head of the Russian mission was invited to the European External Action Service to familiarise himself with this decision, Borrell added.

Russia confirms prisoner swap With Ukraine

According to Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights Tatyana Moskalkova, Moscow and Kiev carried out a prisoner swap, exchanging 86 for 86.

Russia accuses Ukraine of staging murders to generate Western headlines

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed, on Tuesday, that Ukrainian security services have staged more alleged killings of civilians in several towns and villages in order to elicit sympathy by prompting media headlines in the West. Officials believe that Kiev is trying to create a narrative of Moscow being responsible for war crimes.

Moscow insists that the same tactics were used by Kiev to blame Russian forces for atrocities in the town of Bucha last week.

“The troops of the 72nd Ukrainian Main Center for Psychological Operations conducted another staged filming of civilians allegedly killed by violent actions of the Russian armed forces in order for it to be distributed through the Western media,” spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov stated during a briefing.

According to “confirmed information,” the filming took place in the village of Moschun some 23km northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Monday, he insisted.

Similar false flag operations have been carried out by the Ukrainian side in the cities of Sumy, Konotop and elsewhere, Konashenkov insisted. He didn’t provide direct evidence to support his claims.

On Saturday, Ukraine distributed graphic footage of multiple corpses lying in the streets of Bucha, alleging that they were executed by Russian troops. Again, no unequivocal proof was furnished.

Moscow, which insists that it has not targeted civilians during its operation in Ukraine, has rejected those accusations as a “provocation” and accused Kiev of mounting a false flag operation.

NATO chief chastises China for not condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

NATO’s chief has called out China for being “unwilling to condemn Russia’s aggression,” accusing it of “joining Moscow in questioning the right of nations to choose their own path.”

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was addressing reporters in Brussels ahead of a summit of NATO foreign ministers plus Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, which will take place on Thursday.

Before the invasion of Ukraine began, allies China and Russia proclaimed their friendship had “no limits.” But Beijing has since been quietly distancing itself from Russia’s sanction-hit economy.

While refusing to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine, China has repeatedly denounced sanctions against Moscow as an ineffective way of resolving the crisis.

Over 7.1 million people displaced by war: IOM

More than 7.1 million people have now been displaced by the war in Ukraine, according to the UN’s migration agency.

Women account for more than half of those forced to flee the conflict, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

It added that the main needs of those who had been displaced were “cash, medicines and health services”.

EU proposes further sanctions on Russia including an import ban on coal

The European Commission said Tuesday it is proposing a fifth package of sanctions against Russia which aims to “cut even deeper into the Russian economy,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated.

The proposed measures include an import ban on coal from Russia worth 4 billion euros per year (or about $4.3 billion).

“This will cut another important revenue source for Russia,” von der Leyen added.

The Commission is also proposing a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks, among them VTB, the second largest Russian bank as well as a ban on Russian vessels and Russian-operated vessels from accessing EU ports.

“Certain exemptions will cover essentials such as agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid as well as energy. Additionally, we will propose a ban on Russian and Belarusian road transport operators. This ban will drastically limit the options for the Russian industry to obtain key goods,” von der Leyen continued.

The new package of sanctions also proposes further targeted bans on exports to Russia, worth 10 billion euros (about $10.9 billion), including technology such as quantum computers and advanced semiconductors, but also sensitive machinery and transportation equipment.

“We are working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports, and we are reflecting on some of the ideas presented by the Member States, such as taxes or specific payment channels such as an escrow account,” said the European Commission President.

“It is important to sustain utmost pressure on Putin and the Russian government at this crucial point,” she added.

EU Member States will need to sign off on the Commission’s proposal.

NATO says Russia regrouping ahead of anticipated Donbas offensive

Russia is not giving up on its offensive in Ukraine but will try to refocus on taking complete control of the country’s eastern Donbas region in the coming weeks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has stated.

“We now see a significant movement of [Russian] troops away from Kyiv to regroup, re-arm and re-supply and shift their focus to the east,” Stoltenberg told a news conference before a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

“In the coming weeks, we expect a further Russian push in eastern and southern Ukraine to try to take the entire Donbas and to create a land bridge to occupied Crimea,” he added.

“So this is a crucial phase of the war,” warned Stoltenberg.

Ukrainian Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba will join NATO foreign ministers for a summit in Brussels Thursday, in which allies will “discuss what more they can do” as Ukraine “faces this new offensive”, Stoltenberg said.

“Our allies are determined to provide further support to Ukraine, including anti-tank weapons, air defense systems and other equipment,” he added.

Spain to expel about 25 Russian diplomats

The Spanish government has decided to expel about 25 diplomats of the Russian embassy, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albarez said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“I want to announce to you that this morning we decided to expel from Spain the Russian diplomats and the Russian embassy staff who pose a threat to the security interests of our country,” he stated, adding, “We are talking about 25 people, we are completing the list at the moment.” The minister said they would be given a few days to leave the country. Albarez also linked the decision to the events around Ukraine.

Putin-Zelensky meeting possible after agreeing document at talks

Moscow does not deny a possibility of a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky but warns that it can be organized only after the countries’ delegations to the talks agree a corresponding document, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, commenting on Zelensky’s words that his meeting with Putin may not take place.

“Nothing has change for us on this matter: we do not deny a possibility of a meeting for our president, but we repeat it once again that such a meeting is only possible after the text of a document is agreed,” he added.

When asked whether it can be said that the negotiating process between Russia and Ukraine is under a threat, Peskov stated, “We still prefer not to share this information.”

UN says evidence from Bucha indicates civilians were ‘directly targeted, killed’

Video footage and images from Bucha show “all the signs” that civilians there were “directly targeted and directly killed,” a spokeswoman for the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has said.

Liz Throssell described the emerging evidence as “very disturbing”.

“We have been talking about war crimes in the context of shelling, of bombardment and artillery attacks. Now they need to be investigated. But you could argue there was a military context, for example, to a building being hit,” she added.

“[But] It’s hard to see what was the military context of an individual lying in the street with a bullet to the head or having their bodies burned,” she stated.

EU finance ministers ready to step up sanctions on Russia

European finance ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to discuss imposing further sanctions on Russia following reports of alleged war crimes in Bucha.

“We have new images from satellites on what is happening, what was happening in Bucha. And we have to react,” Paolo Gentiloni, European Commissioner for the Economy, said Tuesday. He reiterated that “nothing is off the table.”

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire stated that oil and coal sanctions “are a possibility.”

Le Maire added he was not sure what the position of the 27 member states will be, but said he thinks there is “total determination” of all the member states to “enforce sanctions.”

Kremlin says Biden’s war crime comment on Putin unacceptable

The Kremlin said on Tuesday a remark by US President Joe Biden that Vladimir Putin should be tried for war crimes was unacceptable and unworthy.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also said the United States was likely to impose further sanctions on Russia.

“Americans are unlikely to give up their favourite practice,” Peskov added.

He also pointed to the conflicting statements on the Bucha provocation made by Biden and the Pentagon.

“We draw [your] attention to the ongoing contradictions in the ranks of the Americans, when the president calls something a war crime, and the Pentagon makes a statement that it does not have accurate data that would allow us to come to such a conclusion. We simply record these facts,” Peskov said.

He added that “the West has simply closed its eyes and ears with blinkers and does not want to hear anything” on the Bucha provocation.

“Unfortunately, this is a reality, but even so, we intend to actively promote our position,” the Kremlin spokesman emphasised.

Civilian ship attacked in Mariupol port by Russian military: Ukraine

A civilian ship in the port of Mariupol is on fire and sinking after being hit by Russian troops, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior.

The ship, under a Dominican Republic flag, was berthed in the port when it was hit by shells during an ongoing attack on the besieged southern Ukrainian city, the ministry said in a statement Tuesday on its Telegram channel.

A fire broke out in the engine room before spreading and at least one crew member is known to have been injured, the statement added.

Maritime border guards were able to evacuate some crew to safety but say it is it impossible to continue the rescue operation due to “constant shelling.”

According to the ministry, the captain sent a distress signal using the international maritime safety channel when it came under fire.

“Warning! Warning! The ship under the flag of the Dominican Republic was brutally destroyed, everything was destroyed, the captain’s bridge was destroyed. Fire in engine room. There are wounded on board,” the captain reportedly stated.

Ukrainian official calls for new court for war crimes hearings

A new court should be set up to handle alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

Speaking on national television, Oleksiy Arestovych stated the body would need to handle cases including the alleged killing of civilians by Russian troops in Bucha.

He compared the proposed court to the one that prosecuted war crimes in former Yugoslavia.

Kremlin: Bucha provocation aimed at slandering Russia

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stated that the Bucha provocation is aimed at slandering Russia.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Peskov stressed that Moscow insists on an unbiased investigation into the matter.

“[…] We still insist that any accusations against the Russian side, against the Russian military are not just groundless, but these are nothing but a well-directed and tragic show,” he added.

According to Peskov, “the whole course of events, as well as a huge amount of data, facts, and other parameters clearly indicate that this is a forgery in order to try to tarnish the Russian Army”.

The Kremlin spokesman warned that such attempts will never be successful.

Sweden to expel three Russian diplomats

Sweden’s foreign minister announced it will expel three Russian diplomats for failing to obey international rules, making it the latest in a string of European countries to take similar moves.

Ann Linde told reporters the three individuals’ work in Sweden was “not in accordance with the Vienna Convention,” referring to the international treaty that concerns diplomatic relations between independent states.

Top EU officials to meet with Ukrainian president in Kiev

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell will make a visit to Kiev later in the week to meet with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, European Commission Spokesman Eric Mamer wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola made a visit to Kiev last week.

The EU will send a team of investigators to Ukraine to probe alleged war crimes on the ground, von der Leyen announced on Monday, after holding phone talks with Zelensky.

The move comes after multiple dead civilians were found in Bucha, a suburb of the capital, over the weekend, with Kiev promptly attributing the killings to Russian troops.

Italy expels 30 Russian diplomats

Italy’s foreign minister says his country has expelled 30 Russian diplomats for “national security reasons”.

Luigi Di Maio stated that Russia’s ambassador to Italy, Sergey Razov, had been summoned earlier on Tuesday “to notify him of the Italian government’s decision to expel” the diplomats “as ‘personae non grata’”.

The wave of expulsions from EU nations comes as a response to the Russian special operation in Ukraine, launched on 24 February.

Moscow will give a corresponding response to the expulsion of 30 Russian diplomats from Italy, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told TASS on Tuesday.

“Russia will give a corresponding response to the expulsion [of diplomats],” she added.

Zelensky says it’s possible there will be no meeting with Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said it is possible there will be no meeting between him and Vladimir Putin.

Speaking on Ukrainian TV on Tuesday, Zelensky stated holding negotiations with Russia was the only option for his country, although the possibility of having such talks was now a “challenge”.

He also noted that Ukraine would search for possible war criminals and refer them to prosecutors in other countries.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told TASS that Moscow would give an appropriate response to the expulsion of its diplomats from Italy.

The killings in Bucha show that Russia’s alleged mission to ‘De-Nazify’ Ukraine applies more to Russia’s own government and forces, he added.

Denmark expels 15 Russian diplomats accused of spying

Denmark has expelled 15 Russian diplomats identified as “intelligence officers”, the country’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, following similar moves by France and Germany.

“We have established that the 15 expelled intelligence officers have conducted spying on Danish soil,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told reporters, adding that the government wished to send a “clear signal” that spying in Denmark was “unacceptable”.

Moscow will take retaliatory measures against the staff of Denmark’s foreign offices following the expulsion of Russian diplomats, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told TASS on Tuesday.

“Corresponding measures will be taken against the staffers of that country’s foreign offices,” she said.

Kyiv mayor urges Europe to cut commercial ties with Russia

The mayor of Kyiv has urged European politicians to cut all commercial ties with Moscow, saying that all payments to Russia will fuel what he called a “genocide of Ukrainians”.

“Every Euro, every cent that you receive from Russia or that you send to Russia has blood, it is bloody money and the blood of this money is Ukrainian blood, the blood of Ukrainian people,” Vitali Klitschko, dressed in military clothes, told a mayors’ conference in Geneva via video link.

“You can’t be half-pregnant. Right now the war is black and white. Are you for peace and support Ukraine or do you support the aggressors, Russia?,” he added.

Russia dismisses Ukrainian allegations of war crimes as ‘propaganda’

Russia has pushed back against allegations its soldiers have committed war crimes in Ukraine, casting such allegations as fake propaganda staged by Ukrainian special forces to besmirch Moscow.

Since Russian troops withdrew from towns and villages around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Ukrainian troops have been showing journalists corpses of what they say are civilians killed by Moscow’s forces.

“These are fakes that matured in the cynical imagination of Ukrainian propaganda,” Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said on Telegram.

50 former world leaders back petition to try Putin for war crimes

50 former world leaders, including Sir John Major and Gordon Brown, have signed a proposal to create an international tribunal that will try Russian President Vladimir Putin and others responsible for the war in Ukraine for the ‘crime of aggression’.

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the world must “set a clear path that brings Putin to justice” after the war crimes revealed at Bucha and Mariupol.

He added: “What started off as a European project has now won support from every continent, with backing for a special tribunal from former heads of state and Prime Ministers in Australia, Canada and across Latin America. It reflects the widespread global revulsion at the war crimes committed against Ukraine by Russian forces.

“I welcome the fact that the British Justice Minister Dominic Raab has offered support for the ICC’s  investigation into war crimes by Russia. At the request of Ukraine, our petition proposes that in addition to this the ICC also sets up a special tribunal to probe the crime of aggression by Putin and his associates,” he noted.

“Doing so will show that the international community is prepared to do whatever it takes to hold him to account for his actions,” he stated.

The proposal has been formulated by leading international human rights lawyers around the world. The trial, similar to the Nuremberg trials, would act in addition to the current investigations into war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

165 children killed by Russians: Ukrainian prosecutors

At least 165 children have been killed in Ukraine, including four in the past 24 hours, and more than 265 others wounded, Ukrainian officials announced.

Most of the children died in the southeastern Donetsk region – partially controlled by Moscow-backed separatists and Russian troops – around Kyiv and in the eastern region of Kharkiv, according to the officials.

Ukraine needs “serious players” when it comes to security guarantees: Zelensky

Ukraine needs “serious players who are ready to go all the way” when it comes to security guarantees, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking to journalists on Ukrainian state TV Tuesday, Zelensky stated Ukraine has not yet received “a specific list of these countries that are prepared to 100% stand up for us.”

He added Ukraine is currently discussing security guarantees with countries including France, US, Germany, Turkey, Britain and Poland.

“We need serious players who are ready to go all the way. We need a circle of countries who would within 24 hours provide us with any weapons,” said Zelensky.

These countries need to be states “who have real influence over the sanctions policy” and who are prepared to mobilize “as soon as we hear any threats from the Russian Federation,” he added.

“These countries would come together. And within 24 hours, two or three days will impose everything, block everything. And simply put this country in a containment,” he continued.

On the topic of NATO membership, Zelensky said that even if Russia “sets it as a condition” that Ukraine does not join the alliance, the country has “given away too many lives not to be frank.”

“If we are offered NATO membership tomorrow without playing with our lives, then we will join,” he added.

Duma speaker brands Bucha incident false flag to discredit Russia

The situation in the Ukrainian city of Bucha is a false flag to discredit Russia and justify Western sanctions, and a genuine investigation into what happened is not something that NATO countries seek, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin stated on Tuesday.

“The only objective is to discredit Russia, justify the sanctions, weapons supplies and other unfriendly actions, as well as to further exacerbate the situation in Ukraine,” Volodin maintained.

According to the Duma speaker, “an investigation is of no use to NATO countries, [since] the perpetrators have already been found.”

“There are no facts, just lies. The Ukrainian media had to delete the photo evidence posted by them, since the information is not confirmed. But no one cares about all this anymore. The accusations have been made,” Volodin concluded.

Russian military claims strikes on Ukrainian military training center

The Russian military has claimed it carried out long-range strikes with sea-launched missiles on what it described as a training center for Ukrainian special operations forces in southern Ukraine.

“On the evening of April 4, sea-based high-precision long-range weapons near the town of Ochakiv destroyed a training center for Ukrainian Special Operations Forces, which was used, among other things, to accommodate foreign mercenaries,” Russian Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson, said in a statement.

The Russian military describes foreigners who have volunteered to fight for Ukraine as “mercenaries.”

Konashenkov added that Russian forces air-launched precision missiles targeting fuel storage facilities in four locations: In Kremenets, Cherkasy, Zaporizhzhia and Novomoskovsk.

Russian forces have targeted fuel supply and storage facilities around Ukraine since the invasion.

Since the beginning of the special operation in Ukraine, the Russian military has destroyed 398 drones, 214 multiple rocket launchers, and 1,969 tanks and other armored vehicles, Konashenkov said.

“In total, since the beginning of the special military operation, 125 aircraft, 91 helicopters, 398 unmanned aerial vehicles, 226 anti-aircraft missile systems, 1,969 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 214 multiple rocket launchers, 852 field artillery vehicles and mortars, as well as 1,873 special military vehicles,” he added.

EU will probably adopt new Russian sanctions on Wednesday: France

The EU will likely adopt a new round of sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, following reports of civilian killings in northern Ukraine by Kremlin forces, stated the French European Affairs Minister.

Clement Beaune told RFI radio on Tuesday that “the new sanctions will probably be adopted tomorrow” and added that the EU should move quickly on decreasing gas and coal imports from Russia.

Withdrawing Russian troops likely to require ‘significant re-equipping’ before re-deployment: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Ukrainian forces have retaken key northern terrain, forcing Russian forces to retreat from areas around the city of Chernihiv and north of the capital Kyiv.

Low-level fighting is likely to continue in some of the recaptured areas, but reduce this week as the remainder of the Russian forces withdraw, the ministry announced in its latest intelligence update.

“Many Russian units withdrawing from northern Ukraine are likely to require significant re-equipping and refurbishment before being available to redeploy for operations in eastern Ukraine,” it added.

Russian embassy urges US to stop pumping Ukraine with lethal weapons

The Russian Embassy in the United States called on Washington to stop pumping Ukraine with lethal weapons.

“We call on Washington to stop pumping Ukraine with lethal weapons. It is the United States that provokes more and more victims,” the embassy said on Telegram.

China, Ukraine FMs speak by phone

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, in a phone call on Monday.

The call, which Beijing said was made at Ukraine’s request, was the first reported high-level conversation between the countries since March 1, when Kuleba asked Wang to use Beijing’s ties with Moscow to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

During Monday’s call, Wang again urged talks to end the conflict, according to Chinese state media.

“Wars end eventually,” Wang stated, adding, “The key is how to reflect on the pain, to maintain lasting security in Europe and establish a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism.”

He added that China “stands ready to play a constructive role in this regard in an objective position.”

Kuleba, in a Twitter post, said he was “grateful to my Chinese counterpart for solidarity with civilian victims”.

He stated, “We both share the conviction that ending the war against Ukraine serves common interests of peace, global food security and international trade.”

US stops Russian bond payments

The US has stopped the Russian government from paying holders of its sovereign debt more than $600m from reserves held at American banks, in a move meant to ratchet up pressure on Moscow and eat into its holdings of US dollars.

Under sanctions put in place after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, foreign currency reserves held by the Russian central bank at US financial institutions were frozen.

But the US Department of Treasury had been allowing the Russian government to use those funds to make coupon payments on dollar-denominated sovereign debt on a case-by-case basis.

On Monday, as the largest of the payments came due, including a $552.4m principal payment on a maturing bond, the US government decided to cut off Moscow’s access to the frozen funds, according to a US Treasury spokesperson.

An $84m coupon payment was also due on Monday on a 2042 sovereign dollar bond.

The move was meant to force Moscow to make the difficult decision of whether it would use dollars that it has access to for payments on its debt or for other purposes, including supporting its war effort, the spokesperson said.

Russia faces a historic default if it chooses to not do so.

“Russia must choose between draining remaining valuable dollar reserves or new revenue coming in, or default,” the spokesperson added.

Russia trying to hide ‘guilt in mass killings’ in Mariupol: Zelensky

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russian forces of launching a campaign to hide evidence of mass killings of civilians in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

“We must also be aware that after the revealed mass killings of civilians in the Kyiv region, the occupiers may have a different attitude to their crimes in another part of our country where they came,” the Ukrainian leader said in his nightly video address.

“They are already launching a false campaign to conceal their guilt in the mass killings of civilians in Mariupol,” he continued.

The invading soldiers will stage interviews, edit recordings and kill people specifically to make it look like they were killed by someone else, he added.

Diplomat: No signs of atrocities seen after withdrawal of Russian troops from Bucha

There were no reports about alleged atrocities committed by Russian troops in Ukraine’s Bucha immediately after their withdrawal from the city, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzya said on Monday.

“Four days after the Russian military left the city of Bucha, there was not a single sign of atrocities, not a single reference to it anywhere,” he stressed.

Nebenzya added available evidence leaves no doubt the events in Bucha, as they are presented by Ukraine, were staged.

Moscow will soon brief the United Nations Security Council on the actual situation in Ukraine’s Bucha and will reveal evidence that Russian troops have nothing to do with this provocation,” Nebenzya continued.

Russia slams US, UK efforts to suspend it from UN rights body

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia has reacted furiously to the US and UK’s efforts to suspend Moscow from the UN Human Rights Council.

“This is unbelievable,” he said.

“What the West is trying to do with Russia, trying to exclude it from multilateral forums we are having in the world… this is unprecedented,” he stated.

He added, “This will not facilitate or encourage or be helpful to what is happening between Russian and Ukrainians in peace talks.”

Oil jumps over 3% as deaths near Kyiv prompt talk of new sanctions

Ukraine registers 7,000 reports of Russian war crimes in Kyiv region: Prosecutor

Ukraine’s Prosecutor Genera Iryna Venediktova says her office has registered more than 7,000 cases alleging Russian war crimes in the Kyiv region.

She added her office has already started investigating war crimes in Irpin, Bucha and Worsel.

Satellite images suggest bodies in Bucha streets for weeks

A set of satellite images of a Bucha street appear to show several bodies in or just off the road where Ukraine officials have accused the Russians of killing civilians.

The photographs, taken in mid-March by Maxar Technologies, seem to rebut Russian assertions that the bodies in civilian clothing found in Bucha appeared there after its forces had retreated.

“High-resolution Maxar satellite imagery collected over Bucha, Ukraine (northwest of Kyiv) verifies and corroborates recent social media videos and photos that reveal bodies lying in the streets and left out in the open for weeks,” Maxar Technologies spokesman Stephen Wood stated in a statement, according to the AFP news agency.

In an analysis of the images alongside footage from April 1 and 2, the New York Times concluded that many of the bodies had been there for at least three weeks.

Zelensky warns civilian casualties may be higher in other liberated cities after Bucha

The number of civilian casualties may be much higher in Borodyanka and other liberated Ukrainian cities than Bucha, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“There is already information that the number of victims of the occupiers may be even higher in Borodyanka and some other liberated cities. In many villages of the liberated districts of the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions, the occupiers did things that the locals had not seen even during the Nazi occupation 80 years ago. The occupiers will definitely bear responsibility for this,” Zelensky added.

In Bucha, Zelensky stated there were more than 300 people killed, but that the total number of casualties will likely increase as the whole city is checked.

Zelensky underscored the importance of journalists documenting the aftermath in liberated Ukrainian cities.

“We provide maximum access for journalists to Bucha and other liberated cities of Ukraine. For hundreds of journalists from around the world. And we are interested in having thousands of journalists there. As many as possible! For the world to see what Russia has done,” he underlined.

Zelensky cautioned that Russia will try to cover up the traces of violence committed in Bucha and other cities.

“They are trying to distort the facts. But, as then, they will not succeed. They will not be able to deceive the whole world,” Zelensky stated.

Every Russian will learn the truth about the massacre in Bucha, Zelensky has vowed.

The Ukraine’s president said Russia would face justice for atrocities after Kyiv said 410 murdered civilians were removed from newly liberated areas near the capital.

He added his government was “doing everything possible to identify all the Russian military involved in these crimes as soon as possible”.

Zelensky repeated his plea to be sent more weapons to fight Russian forces.

“I emphasize once again: Ukraine must get all the necessary weapons to drive the occupiers out of our land as soon as possible, to liberate our cities. And if we had already got what we needed – all these planes, tanks, artillery, anti-missile and anti-ship weapons, we could have saved thousands of people,” he noted.

Russia to present ’empirical evidence’ over Bucha: Envoy

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s envoy to the UN, has said that Russia will present “empirical evidence” to the UN’s Security Council that its forces have not been killing civilians in Ukraine and were not involved in events in Bucha.

“We have empirical evidence to support this,” Nebenzya stated at a press conference.

“We intend to submit them to the Security Council as soon as possible so that the international community is not misled by the false plot of Kyiv and its Western sponsors,” he added.

Lawmakers urge Biden administration to expand weapons being sent to Ukraine

A bipartisan group of more than three dozen lawmakers is pushing the Joe Biden administration to expand the weapons being provided to Ukraine’s military amid continued demands from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help his country with more weapons to defend itself against Russia, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

Russian forces ‘obviously responsible’ for atrocities in Bucha: Pentagon

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said that Russian forces are obviously responsible for the atrocities in Bucha.

“I think it’s fairly obvious, not just to us but to the world, that Russian forces are responsible for the atrocities in Bucha,” Kirby told a news briefing.

He also acknowledged that it was not yet clear exactly which units were operating in the area.

“Now exactly who – what units, whether they’re contractors or Chechens – I don’t think we’re able to say right now. But we’re certainly not refuting that these atrocities occurred and occurred at the hands of Russians,” he added.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Javelin anti-tank missile systems and Stinger man-portable surface-to-air missile systems are in the priority of the US weapons supplies to Ukraine, Kirby noted.

Human Rights Watch chief warns what happened in Bucha “could be replicated on a very large scale”

Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, told CNN the images of mass graves emerging from Ukraine’s Bucha are “sickening” and warned that it “could be replicated on a very large scale.”

“What is happening in Bucha and other cities around Kyiv could be replicated on a very large scale. And so the message we’re trying to send to the Kremlin is that, here’s the evidence of these atrocities taking place. If you want to avoid criminal responsibility, reign in your troops,” Roth told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview.

“From a war crimes perspective … it’s not enough to just have a body. You need to figure out, why did that person die? In some cases, we’re getting accounts of people who were bound, who were executed. That’s a clear war crime. But if somebody was killed in crossfire, you need to look more carefully. Some of these conceivably could have been soldiers, either Ukrainian or Russia. So you really need to investigate,” he added.

US President Joe Biden on Monday called the atrocities allegedly committed by Russian forces in Bucha a “war crime” and called for a trial to take place against Russian President Vladimir Putin. He didn’t, however, label the killings a “genocide.”

In response to Biden’s remarks, Roth said we shouldn’t be diminishing what we’re seeing in Bucha, just because it doesn’t constitute genocide.

“A war crime is serious enough. Some people are conflating language and saying this is genocide. We haven’t seen genocide yet. I hope we don’t get to that in Ukraine,” he added.

When asked if Putin could be held personally responsible for the alleged war crimes, Roth stated: “In principle, yes”.

“What needs to be proven is that he was aware these crimes were taken place. I suspect that can be proven, and that he didn’t take steps to reign them in, to stop them,” he continued.

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister: If we don’t stop Putin, “this is only the beginning of those atrocities”

A group of eleven Ukrainian city mayors continue to be held captive by Russian forces, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister reiterated on Monday.

“This is absolutely true. We know that all of the city mayors, they are in captivity, they’re being held hostage by Russians, they are unfortunately are not giving them back to us,” Iryna Vereshchuk told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday.

“Unfortunately, so far, we have not been able to get in touch, or to free any other city mayors, and we don’t even know, we think that some of them were killed,” she said, speaking via a translator.

“If we do not stop Vladimir Putin today, together, this is only the beginning of those atrocities that we will reveal later on. Because as we are talking now with you, there are … more than 100,000 civilians, women, children, elderly, who are dying in the city of Mariupol at the moment,” she stated.

“People are dying, they are dying of hunger, thirst, severe wounds, airstrikes, thousands of them are being killed. It is a genocide, against the Ukrainian civilians. And Putin, he realizes that he cannot stop the Ukrainian army, and that’s why he has another tactic. He is torturing and raping Ukrainian civilians, women, and this is what’s his so-called second army is doing. They are fighting against the civilians, and we seem to just be watching powerless against them,” she added.

Torture chamber found in Bucha children’s facility: Prosecutor’s office

Ukrainian police have found a “torture chamber” in the basement of a children’s sanatorium in Bucha, the prosecutor general’s office claimed.

In a Telegram post, the office said “police found the bodies of five men with their hands tied” there.

“Military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation tortured unarmed civilians and then killed them,” it added.

US to announce new sanctions against Russia this week

The United States will announce new sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine this week, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said.

“You can expect further sanctions announcements this week,” Sullivan told reporters.

He stated that discussions about sanctions with European allies include “options that relate to energy”.

The US will also make announcements of additional military assistance for Ukraine in the coming days, Sullivan added.

‘No place for Russia’ on UN Human Rights Council: Ukraine

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated he has been speaking to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the latest security situation in the country and “the Bucha massacre”, and stressed that Ukraine would use “all available UN mechanisms” to gather evidence of what happened and hold Russia to account.

There can be “no place for Russia on the UN Human Rights Council,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

18 journalists killed in Ukraine since Russian invasion

The Ukrainian Culture and Information Ministry says 18 journalists have been killed in the country since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

In a statement on Telegram, the ministry announced the victims included 15 men and three women.

The ministry added that another 13 journalists had been wounded, eight had been abducted or taken prisoner and three journalists were still missing.

Reporters Without Borders, the global media watchdog, says it has documented the death of seven journalists in Ukraine.

Trudeau promises to hold ‘Putin and his enablers’ accountable

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his government will not “spare any effort” to make sure violations of international law in Ukraine are investigated.

In a tweet, Trudeau also said Ottawa would continue to hold President Vladimir Putin accountable, pointing to fresh sanctions targeting nine Russian and nine Belarusian officials that it accused of enabling “violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”.

“We won’t relent in holding Putin and his enablers accountable,” Trudeau added.

Red Cross involved in collecting evidence of Bucha killings: Ukraine official

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky has pledged a speedy independent review and documentation of atrocities discovered in Bucha.

“As soon as the bridges that the Russians blew up during their retreat have been repaired, experts will have access,” he told the German daily Tagesspiegel.

The International Committee of the Red Cross was already involved in collecting evidence, the minister said, adding that other international experts would soon join the investigation.

Apparent ‘war crimes’ in Bucha must be investigated: Amnesty

Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International, has said reports from Bucha indicate a ‘wider pattern of war crimes’ that should be investigated.

“These reports from Bucha are showing a wider pattern of war crimes including extrajudicial executions and torture in other occupied areas of Ukraine,” Callamard stated.

“We fear the violence suffered by civilians in Bucha at the hands of Russian soldiers is not unique. These incidents should be investigated as war crimes,” she added.

Ukraine FM: Bucha killings are just ‘tip of the iceberg’

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said the evidence of civilian killings from the town of Bucha are just the “tip of the iceberg” and show the need for tougher sanctions on Moscow.

“The horrors that we’ve seen in Bucha are just the tip of the iceberg of all the crimes [that] have been committed by the Russian Army,” Kuleba continued.

“Half measures are not enough any more. I demand most severe sanctions this week, this is the plea of the victims of the rapes and killings. If you have doubts about sanctions go to Bucha first,” he added.

Lavrov: Biden’s comment on Putin shows some have issue with conscience

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that comments made by US President Joe Biden about Vladimir Putin show some in the West have issues with their conscience.

Biden accused Putin of war crimes and called for a trial, adding to the global outcry over civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha as more graphic images of their deaths emerged.

Lavrov commented on the latest developments in Ukraine during his press conference with the Arab League Contact Group, namely addressing Ukraine’s “provocation” in the city of Bucha, where Kiev claims Russian troops killed civilians.

He promised that Moscow will expose all “fakes” regarding the Russian special operation in Ukraine as it did in the case of the alleged bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol.

The minister stressed that there have been several cases already, where brazen fake news emerged in the media, a propaganda campaign was organised, but when the truth came out “nobody wanted to talk about it.”

He also commented on the progress made in the Russia-Ukraine talks on ending the special operation of the Russian troops, stating that “there is always hope” that an agreement will be reached eventually.

According to him, the delegations continue active discussions in the format of the video conferences.

Lavrov noted progress made during the latest in-person meeting of the delegations, stating that Kiev’s positions in the negotiations became more “realistic”.

“[There were] more realism about the need to secure in the treaty the neutral status of Ukraine, its non-nuclear status […] Undoubtedly, the position of the Ukrainian delegation showed much more realism regarding the status of Crimea and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics,” he continued.

The top diplomat noted, however, that it remains to be seen how this “realism” will look like “on paper”. Lavrov expressed hope that Ukraine will take into account into own interests and will take less advice from abroad.

Bodies of five men found in a basement in Bucha: Prosecutor

Bodies of five men tortured and killed by Russian troops were found in a basement of a children’s health resort, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office has announced in a statement on Telegram.

“In the basement of one of the children’s sanatoriums, police found the bodies of five men with their hands tied,” the statement said.

“Soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces tortured and killed unarmed civilians”, it added.

US supporting team of international prosecutors collecting evidence on atrocities in Ukraine

The US, at the request of Ukraine, is supporting a multinational team of international prosecutors to the region to help collect and analyse evidence of atrocities with a view toward pursuing accountability, the state department has noted.

“We are tracking and documenting atrocities and sharing information with institutions working to hold responsible those accountable,” state department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

Ten civilians killed, 46 wounded in bombardment of Mykolaiv: Mayor

Ten civilians were killed and 46 wounded in the Russian bombardment of the Ukrainian town of Mykolaiv, the town’s mayor Oleksandr Senkevich has said in a video statement.

A first strike by the Russian army left “one dead and five wounded, including two seriously,” before another in which “nine people were killed and 41 others wounded,” he stated, adding the number of casualties could still rise.

Russia likely to send thousands of soldiers to eastern Ukraine: US

Russia probably plans to “deploy tens of thousands of soldiers” to eastern Ukraine as it shifts its focus to the country’s south and east, President Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

“At this juncture we believe Russia is revising its war aims” to focus on “eastern and parts of southern Ukraine rather than target most of the territory,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House.

‘Symmetrical’ reaction to expulsion of diplomats to follow: Former Russia president

Dmitry Medvedev has promised a harsh reaction to the expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western governments.

“It will be symmetrical and destructive for bilateral relations,” Medvedev, who is deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote on his Telegram channel.

He added that expelling diplomats as a means of pressure is a practice that is “senseless” and “leads nowhere”.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has also responded to Berlin’s decision to declare Russian diplomats unwelcome in Germany, by vowing to deliver an appropriate response. The ministry condemned the move as an “evil act of the German political machine”. Moscow has also stressed it will respond to Paris’ actions.

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