Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Live Updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 42

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:

Biden denounces ‘major war crimes’ in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has denounced the widespread killing of Ukrainian civilians allegedly by Russian troops in Bucha as “war crimes”.

“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures from Bucha, just outside of Kyiv: bodies left in the streets as Russian troops withdrew, some shot in the back of the head with their hands tied behind their backs,” Biden said at a labor union event.

“There’s nothing less happening than major war crimes,” he added.

Ukraine FM says will discuss need for weapons with NATO, G7

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said he planned to appeal to his counterparts from G7 and NATO nations to fulfill Ukraine’s request for sufficient weapons to counter Russian forces.

Speaking in a video address, Kuleba stated he was meeting the other foreign ministers on Thursday.

“The main topic of my discussion in Brussels will be the supply of all necessary weapons to Ukraine,” he said.

Russia forces near Kyiv and Chernihiv have completely withdrawn: US defense official

The US assesses that Russian forces have completely withdrawn from areas near Kyiv and Chernihiv to “reconsolidate and refit in Belarus and in Russia,” according to a senior US defense official.

The official also said Russia has still not “secured” Mariupol despite isolating the city.

Russia has now launched more than 1,450 missiles against Ukraine since the invasion, the official added.

The alleged atrocities in Bucha appear to be “premeditated,” “planned” and “very, very deliberate,” the official added, saying it’s “difficult to know” what motivated Russian forces to commit such acts, but that they sent a message to the world of “Russia’s brutality.”

EU fails to agree new Russia sanctions

EU policy makers failed to agree Wednesday on a new package of sanctions against Moscow, including a ban on Russian coal imports, Reuters reports, citing its sources.

The latest round of economic restrictions was proposed by the European Commission earlier this week.

Persons familiar with the matter explained the fiasco citing “technical issues” that needed to be resolved, including on whether a coal import ban would affect existing contracts.

The sources noted that it was not clear yet how the issues will be resolved, but the EU hopes to reach a compromise at a meeting on Thursday.

Russian defense ministry: Ukrainian network of biolabs has 30 facilities in 14 locations

The Ukrainian network of laboratories designed to conduct research and monitor the biological situation consists of 30 facilities in 14 populated locations, Igor Kirillov, the chief of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces of the Russian Armed Forces, claimed on Wednesday.

“A network of bio laboratories, comprising 30 biological facilities in 14 populated localities, has been set up on [Ukrainian] territory to conduct research and monitor the biological situation,” Kirillov stated at the UN Security Council Arria Formula meeting on the topic ‘Threats to international peace and security emanating from military biological activities in regions across the globe’.

Kirillov pointed out that it could be confirmed with the registration card signed by Viktor Polishchuk, Deputy State Secretary of Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers. The legal basis for its signing was the ‘Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Area of Prevention of Proliferation of Technology, Pathogens and Expertise That Could Be Used in the Development of Biological Weapons’ signed by the US Department of Defense and Ukraine’s Health Ministry in 2005.

According to Kirillov, the registration card outlines a list of biological facilities and identifies the customer of the work as the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of the US Department of Defense.

UK unveils fifth package of Russia sanctions

The United Kingdom has imposed a new round of sanctions on Russia, marking its fifth such package since the war began.

The measures include a freeze on the assets of Russia’s Sberbank and a ban on outwards investment to Russia. A further eight oligarchs active in the fertilisers, oil and gas industries, among others, were also sanctioned.

The UK’s government added it intended to stop all imports of Russian coal and oil by the end of 2022, with a plan to halt gas imports “as soon as possible thereafter.”

US sanctions Russian PM, Putin’s ‘adult children’, Lavrov’s wife

Citing “atrocities in Ukraine, including in Bucha,” the US on Wednesday rolled out new sanctions against the “Putin regime” and Russian banks, companies and government officials – as well as their family members.

“Today, the United States, with the G7 and the European Union, will continue to impose severe and immediate economic costs on the Putin regime for its atrocities in Ukraine, including in Bucha. We will document and share information on these atrocities and use all appropriate mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible,” the White House announced.

President Vladimir Putin’s “adult children” and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter were among the Russians listed in the latest round of “full blocking sanctions,” which the White House says intend to impose “severe and immediate costs” on Moscow. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and former President Dmitry Medvedev were likewise sanctioned, for their membership on the Russian Security Council.

As part of Wednesday’s sanctions, any assets of Sberbank and Alfa Bank “touching” the US financial system have also been blocked, and any Americans banned from doing business with them.

Also on Thursday, the US Treasury will announce the list of “critical major Russian state-owned enterprises,” in order to ban any Americans from doing business with them and freeze their assets subject to US jurisdiction.

The US is also trying to force Russia to default on its sovereign debt, having banned Moscow earlier this week from using funds under US jurisdiction to make payments. The White House added Moscow will now have to “choose between draining its available funds to make debt payments or default.”

Ukraine war could last for years as Putin still wants the “whole of Ukraine”: NATO chief

Although Russia is now concentrating its assault on eastern Ukraine, NATO has seen “no indication” that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aim of controlling the whole country has changed, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters before a meeting in Brussels of foreign ministers of NATO allies, Stoltenberg also warned the war in Ukraine could last for years.

“We have seen no indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine and also to rewrite the international order, so we need to be prepared for the long haul,” he stated.

“We have to be realistic and realize that this may last for a long time, for many months or even years,” he added.

The foreign ministers of NATO countries are meeting Wednesday and Thursday to discuss ramping up support for Ukraine. Kyiv has been calling for tanks and fighter jets on top of the defense systems already provided by the West.

“I will not go into all details of exactly what kind of weapons equipment allies are providing, but I can say the totality of what the allies are doing is significant, and that includes some heavier systems combined with lighter systems,” Stoltenberg said.

He warned the Ukraine war will have long term security implications for Europe regardless of when it ends.

“We have seen the willingness by President Putin to use military force to reach his objectives. And that has changed the security reality in Europe for many, many years,” the secretary general added.

Biden links US sanctions to Bucha ‘atrocities’

President Joe Biden has linked the United States’s new sanctions on Russia to the alleged atrocities carried out by its forces in Bucha.

“I made clear that Russia would pay a severe and immediate price for its atrocities in Bucha,” Biden tweeted.

Luxembourg expels one Russian diplomat

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg made a decision to expel one Russian diplomat, the Ministry said in its statement Wednesday.

“Today, Luxembourg made a decision to declare one Russian embassy diplomat, whose actions contradict the security interests of Luxembourg, persona non grata,” the ministry announced, adding that the diplomat must leave the country within two weeks.

Ukrainian official says 400 people missing in Hostomel

More than 400 residents are missing in the town of Hostomel after a 35-day occupation by Russian forces, Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman has said.

Lyudmyla Denisova quoted witnesses as saying some of the individuals had been killed, but added the alleged victims’ whereabouts were unknown. She did not provide any further details or cite direct evidence for her claim.

Russian forces seized Hostomel, which is near to Kyiv and a strategically important airfield, soon after invading Ukraine on February 24.

US won’t participate in G20 meetings with Russians

The United States won’t participate in G20 meetings that Russia is participating in, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday.

Speaking at the House Financial Services Committee, Yellen stated she’d made that position clear to other finance ministers in the group.

“President [Joe] Biden’s made clear, and I certainly agree with him, that it cannot be business as usual for Russia in any of the financial institutions,” Yellen added.

“He’s asked that Russia be removed from the G20 and I’ve made clear to my colleagues in Indonesia that we will not be participating in a number of meetings if the Russians are there,” she continued.

Biden noted during a news conference in Brussels last month that Russia should be ejected from the G20, but there would need to be agreement among other members to formalize the move. The next G20 leaders summit is set for November in Indonesia. There are ministerial meetings ahead of that gathering.

UN: At least 1,563 civilians killed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started

At least 1,563 civilians have been killed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The UN agency has recorded 3,776 civilian casualties in Ukraine so far: 1,563 killed and 2,213 injured, it announced in its latest update posted Wednesday.

The OCHCR reiterated its belief that “the actual figures are considerably higher as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration.”

Russia slams Bucha provocation as crime by Ukrainian authorities

The Bucha provocation is another crime by the Ukrainian authorities, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Wednesday.

“On April 3, the world witnessed another crime by the Ukrainian authorities, this time in the town of Bucha, where a criminal false flag operation [showing] the alleged killing of civilians by Russian troops had been staged,” she added.

Zakharova emphasized that when Bucha was controlled by the Russian Armed Forces, not a single local resident was affected by acts of violence.

“There was no such information and there is not,” the diplomat stressed.

Moscow not ruling out cutting diplomatic ties with west if expulsion of Russian diplomats continues

Moscow does not rule out severing diplomatic ties with Western countries if the expulsion of Russian diplomats continues, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

Over the week, a handful of countries in the West have expelled Russian diplomats. Furthermore, the European Union kicked 19 Russian employees out of Russia’s permanent mission in the bloc.

UN to vote on suspending Russia from Human Rights Council

The UN General Assembly will vote tomorrow on suspending Russia from the UN Human Rights Council as punishment for invading Ukraine, the assembly presidency said.

Some Western nations are pushing for the expulsion to punish Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.

At least 55 injured in shelling of Mykolaiv

At least 55 people were injured in Mykolaiv Region from Russian shelling in the past 24 hours, the head of Mykolaiv regional administration, Hanna Zamazejeva, wrote in a statement on a Telegram page.

All the victims were taken to hospitals and are receiving the necessary assistance, she said.

As of Wednesday, 306 people injured in attacks on the Mykolaiv region are getting treatment in local hospitals, Zamazejeva added.

Report: Western officials warn Putin may still try to reinvade Kyiv

Russia’s recent strategic change may not mean President Vladimir Putin has given up on trying to capture the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, according to US and Western officials.

Putin is set to launch a brutal new offensive in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

“They will be rearmed, because they’ve used a lot of ammunition and they will be resupplied with fuel and all the things they need, food and so on, to launch a new big offensive,” Stoltenberg added.

Putin’s long-term goals are unclear, according to a senior defense official, yet US and European officials have told CNN that a reinvasion of the Kyiv region is still a possibility — despite Russia’s strategic shift and ongoing talks with Ukraine.

“In order to protect any territory it seizes in the east, we expect that Russia could potentially extend its force projection and presence even deeper into Ukraine, beyond Luhansk and Donetsk provinces,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday.

“At least that is their intention and their plan,” he continued.

The US expects Russia to continue launching air and missile strikes across Ukraine, including against the cities of Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv and Lviv, Sullivan added.

“Russia’s goal, in the end, is to weaken Ukraine as much as possible,” he said.

Mariupol mayor accuses Russia of ‘burning’ corpses to try and cover up civilian killings

Mariupol’s mayor has accused Russia of attempting to cover up what he said was the killing of possibly “tens of thousands of civilians” in the city by using mobile crematoriums to burn corpses.

“One week ago, cautious estimates put the death toll at 5,000. But given the size of the city, catastrophic destruction, the duration of the blockade and fierce resistance, tens of thousands of civilians from Mariupol could have fallen victim to the occupiers,” Vadym Boychenko stated in a post on Telegram.

He accused Moscow-backed separatist fighters from the partially rebel-held region of Donetsk of “collecting and burning” the bodies.

“The world has not seen the scale of the tragedy in Mariupol since the Nazi concentration camps,” Boychenko added, accusing Russia of turning the city into a “death camp”.

The mayor of Mariupol has also compared the city to a Nazi concentration camp, calling the situation a “new Auschwitz or Majdanek.”

In a statement, Boychenko said: The world has not seen the scale of a tragedy like in Mariupol since the Nazi concentration camps. The ruscists [Russian fascists] turned our whole city into a death camp.

“Unfortunately, the eerie analogy is gaining more and more confirmation. This is no longer Chechnya or Aleppo. This is the new Auschwitz and Majdanek. The world should help punish Vladimir Putin’s villains,” he added.

Kyiv council claims 89 killed in the capital since start of war

Kyiv’s city council says 89 people, including four children, have been killed in the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

A further 398 people have been wounded and 167 residential buildings damaged by Russian attacks, the council added.

It also warned residents to continue to follow air raid warnings despite a recent pull-back of Russian forces from the region, saying the threat of Russian “air strikes remains”.

Satellite images show Russian denials on Bucha ‘not tenable’: Germany

The German government announced that satellite pictures from last month provided strong counter evidence against Russian denials of involvement in civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters that the “evaluation of satellite images” led Berlin to conclude that “Russian declarations” that images of civilian deaths “were posed scenes or that they were not responsible for the murders are in our view not tenable”.

Ukrainian officials say hundreds of civilians were found dead in areas vacated by Russian troops and images of bodies in streets sparked global outrage. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the killings as “war crimes” and “genocide”.

The Kremlin has denied the accusations of mass killings and claimed the images emerging from Bucha and other towns are fakes produced by Ukrainian forces, or that the deaths occurred after Russian soldiers pulled out.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also called on Vladimir Putin to immediately end his “destructive war”  and vowed to continue supporting the country in every way possible until the Kremlin had withdrawn its troops.

Johnson says Bucha scenes do not ‘look far short of genocide’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the images emerging from Bucha this week do not “look far short of genocide”.

“I’m afraid when you look at what’s happening in Bucha, the revelations that we are seeing from what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has done in Ukraine, which doesn’t look far short of genocide to me, it is no wonder that people are responding in the way that they are,” Johnson told reporters.

The sight of civilians shot dead in the town’s streets, some with their hands tied, have triggered a global outcry and pledges of further sanctions against Russia.

Norway expels 3 Russian diplomats

Norway has decided to expel three diplomats working at Russia’s embassy in Oslo who have conducted activities that are incompatible with their diplomatic status, the Norwegian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

“It is not by chance that these expulsions take place now,” Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt stated.

“They come at a time when the world is shocked by reports of Russian forces’ crimes against civilians, in particular in the town of Bucha outside Kyiv. In this situation we pay particular attention to unwanted Russian activities in Norway,” she added.

167 children have been killed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky

At least 167 children have been killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but that number is likely higher, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address to the Irish parliament on Wednesday.

“The fact is that in the 42 days of the all-out Russian war, at least 167 children were killed in Ukraine. We don’t know yet all the atrocities of Mariupol and the victims in other areas of Ukraine where the fighting is still going on,” Zelensky told Irish lawmakers.

According to Zelensky, 927 educational institutions, 258 hospitals and 78 ambulances in Ukraine have been targeted by Russian forces.

Russian forces were “targeting even churches and shelters” where they knew there was “nobody but women and children,” he added.

Zelensky asked Ireland to put pressure on the European Union to place “more rigid sanctions” on Russia.

The president said he cannot “tolerate any indecisiveness” after “everything that Russian troops have done” in Ukraine.

“We will still have to convince even some of the European companies to abandon the Russian market. We still have to convince foreign politicians that we need to cut any ties of Russian banks with the global financial system. We still have to convince Europe that Russian oil cannot feed the Russian military machine with new sources of funding,” he added.

Russia is using hunger as “a weapon” in Ukraine, Zelensky told Irish lawmakers, highlighting the impact of the Russian blockade of exports.

Zelensky told Irish lawmakers of how Russian forces have targeted agricultural equipment and fields and blocked exports from leaving Ukrainian ports.

“Why are they doing this? Because for them, hunger is also a weapon. A weapon against us ordinary people, as an instrument of domination,” he added.

“Ukraine is one of the leading food supplying countries in the world… This is not just about the deficit and the threat of hunger, hunger for more than dozens of countries. Asia and Africa. But even more because there will be a shortage of food and the prices will go up,” the president said.

Zelensky listed the besieged southern city of Mariupol as the “worst” example of the crisis, highlighting the plight of the city’s half a million residents.

“They have blocked the access to the soil, to the sea. They are blocking the humanitarian cargo. They are not allowing anything to come through, neither water nor medication. While it was snowing, people would melt the snow to get water. Now they don’t have even that,” he continued.

EU moves to boost defences against chemical, nuclear incidents

The European Commission says it has begun a stockpiling operation to boost its defences against chemical, nuclear and biological incidents amid concerns over the war.

The EU will increase its reserves of protective equipment, decontamination gear, vaccines and medicines, including iodide tablets, the EU’s executive arm added.

Germany will stop using Russian fuel “as quickly as possible” but cannot immediately

Germany will stop using Russian oil and gas “as quickly as possible” but doing so straight away would cause too much economic damage at home, Finance Minister Christian Lindner said Wednesday.

EU Commission chief Ursula Von der Leyen stated Wednesday that the European Union would be placing further sanctions on Russia, likely on gas and oil.

On Tuesday, the EU announced its plans to impose a fifth package of sanctions on Russia including an import ban on Russian coal.

“These sanctions will not be our last sanctions. As I said already yesterday. Yes, we’ve now banned coal, but now we have to look into oil,” she added.

Lindner stressed that, according to the German Economics Minister Robert Habeck, if gas exports were stopped immediately Germany would be threatened not with a loss of growth but with an economic structural break.

“That would be unacceptable,” Lindner said.

“The question is, at what point do we do more harm to Putin than to ourselves? After all, we are pursuing a strategy that we cannot sustain for a few weeks, but probably for years,” Lindner noted in an interview with Die Zeit.

“If I could only follow my heart, there would be an immediate embargo on everything. However, it is doubtful that this would stop the war machine in the short term,” he added.

Moscow says talks with Kyiv moving too slow

The Kremlin has announced that talks between Moscow and Kyiv are not progressing as rapidly as Moscow would like.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated work on setting up a new round of talks was under way but that there remained a long road ahead to achieve any progress.

During in-person discussions between the two sides in Istanbul last week, Ukraine set out a detailed framework for a peace deal under which the country would remain neutral but its security would be guaranteed by a group of third party countries.

Russia, meanwhile, claimed it intended to scale back its military activity near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv.

Ukraine says gas and oil embargo needed to ‘stop Putin’

Ukraine’s foreign minister has welcomed the EU’s proposed new sanctions but said an embargo on Russian gas and oil was needed “to stop” President Vladimir Putin.

“I appreciate the strengthening of the 5th EU sanctions package: bans on Russian coal, vessels accessing EU ports, and road transport operators,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

“But it will take a gas/oil embargo and de-SWIFTing of all Russian banks to stop Putin. Difficult times require difficult decisions,” he added, citing the global payments messaging system.

China must not “undermine” sanctions against Russia: European Commission chief

China has a “special responsibility” to uphold international peace and not “undermine” sanctions against Russia, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels, von der Leyen stated the European Union expects “the rest of the world to take a clear stance against Putin’s war of choice.”

She added that the bloc has sent a message to China calling for sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU to be respected, or at the least, not to be circumvented and undermined.

“As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has a special responsibility to uphold international peace and security,” von der Leyen told EU lawmakers.

She warned that the “war that Russia has unleashed” is “not limited to Europe” and will define how violations of international law are treated in the future.

“China has to take a clear stance on that,” she continued.

Von der Leyen said Wednesday that the EU would be placing further sanctions on Russia, likely on gas and oil.

The announcement came a day after the EU revealed its plans to impose a fifth wave of sanctions on Russia, including an import ban on Russian coal.

Kremlin refutes claims Russian authorities want to kill Zelensky

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied reports that Russian authorities allegedly want to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“No, this is not true”, Peskov said in an interview with the French TV channel LCI when asked about the allegations.

He also rejected allegations that the Kremlin had planned to overthrow the Ukrainian president.

“This is absolutely not true,” Peskov stated, adding that the Russian authorities “have never talked about the occupation of Ukraine”.

EU to place further sanctions on Russia, including likely measures on gas and oil

The European Union will place further sanctions on Russia, likely on gas and oil, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

“At this critical point in the war we must increase the pressure on Putin again,” von der Leyen stated in an address to the European Parliament in Brussels.

On Tuesday, the EU announced its plans to impose a fifth package of sanctions on Russia including an import ban on Russian coal.

“These sanctions will not be our last sanctions. As I said already yesterday. Yes, we’ve now banned coal, but now we have to look into oil,” she noted.

The EU also needs to look at the “revenues that Russia gets from fossil fuels,” she added.

Her remarks were echoed by European Council chief Charles Michel in a tweet Wednesday, saying that EU “measures on oil, and even gas will also be needed sooner or later.”

Foreign Ministry: Moscow to respond to each unfriendly act against Russia

Russia will accordingly respond to each action against Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the Sputnik radio station on Wednesday, commenting on the mass expulsions of Russian diplomats from Western countries.

“We will respond accordingly to each unfriendly act of this kind,” the diplomat stated.

The diplomat noted that each unfriendly action will receive Moscow’s “most effective response” according to the situation.

A tit-for-tat response is not always possible since with a number of countries Russia has “either a different organization of diplomatic services or a different representation in the countries,” she added.

Russia wants to keep diplomatic ties with West despite expulsions

Russia wants to maintain diplomatic relations with Western countries despite a series of expulsions of its diplomats, the country’s Interfax news agency has cited its deputy foreign minister as saying.

Alexander Grushko added that European countries disrupting the work of Russian diplomats were damaging their own interests.

Russia expects that NATO countries will continue to supply arms to Ukraine, Grushko told journalists on Wednesday commenting on the upcoming meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers on April 6-7, according to TASS.

Moscow is working on measures to respond to the European Union’s new package of sanctions, Grushko stated.

Kremlin: Withdrawal of Russian forces from Kiev region is gesture of goodwill to facilitate talks with Ukraine

The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kiev region is a gesture of goodwill to create favourable conditions at the Russia-Ukraine talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told French broadcaster LCI.

He added that Russia is interested in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “accepting” the conditions that were proposed at the negotiations and aims to end the military operation based on those conditions.

Greek foreign ministry announces expulsion of 12 Russian diplomats

Athens has declared 12 employees of Russian diplomatic and consular missions accredited in Greece personae non gratae, the Greek Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

“They were declared personae non gratae in accordance with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and Vienna Convention on Consular relations of 1963”, the ministry added.

Commission head says EU likely to approve sanctions on Russian oil

The European Union will put more sanctions against Russia on top of the latest package announced on Tuesday, likely including measures against imports of Russian oil, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has stated.

“These sanctions will not be our last sanctions,” she told European Parliament in a presentation of the latest sanctions package that includes a ban on buying Russian coal.

“Now we have to look into oil and revenues the Russia gets from fossil fuels,” she added.

Pope condemns ‘atrocities’ while holding Ukrainian flag

Pope Francis condemned massacres in Bucha and held up a Ukrainian flag that was sent to him from the town where it was reported that a mass grave and other signs of executions were found.

“Recent news from the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, brought new atrocities, such as the massacre of Bucha,” he said at the end of his weekly audience.

“Cruelty that is increasingly horrendous, even against civilians, defenceless women and children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries out up to heaven and implores: ‘Stop this war!'” he added.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis holds the Ukrainian flag that was sent to him from the town of Bucha where tied bodies were shot at close range, a mass grave and other signs of executions were found, during the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, April 6, 2022.

The Kremlin announced Western allegations that Russian forces committed war crimes by executing civilians in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating the Russian army.

Ukraine retakes three villages in Kherson: Military

Three villages have been retaken from Russian troops in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, the General Staff of Armed Forces has said in a video posted on YouTube.

The villages of Dobryanka, Novovoznisenske and Trudolyubovka were “liberated” after weeks of occupation, it added.

Over 167 Ukrainian children killed by Russians: Prosecutors

At least 167 children have been killed in Ukraine including two in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian prosecutors have claimed.

Some 279 have been wounded, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced on Telegram.

Most of the deaths were reported in the southeastern Donetsk region that is partially controlled by separatists and Russian troops (81), around Kyiv (78) and the eastern region of Kharkiv (64).

Remains of child found in burned pile of bodies in Bucha

The Associated Press says its reporters saw “the small, blackened foot of a child” in the tangle of a pile of six burned corpses in Bucha.

One of the blackened bodies had arms raised in supplication and face contorted in a scream, while the skull of another had a bullet hole in the left temple.

It was not clear who the people were or under what circumstances they were killed, the agency added.

Medvedev vows international legal battle over property seizures

Former president Dmitry Medvedev has stated on Telegram that Moscow will fight attempts to seize Russian property abroad in courts around the world.

“Opponents of Russia… should understand that they will face a large number of cases in courts. Both in the national courts of the United States and Europe and in international courts,” said Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council.

China: US must stop imposing sanctions to help resolve Ukraine conflict

All accusations related to the situation in the Ukrainian town of Bucha should be based on real facts, Zhao continued.

“Any accusations should be based on real facts. There is a need to exercise restraint until an investigation is conducted,” he pointed out.

According to the diplomat, China supports initiatives that facilitate efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

“China is taking real steps in this direction,” he noted.

He also emphasized the need to figure out “what really happened and the reasons behind it.”

Russian guards came under fire in region bordering Ukraine: Official

Border guards in the Kursk region bordering Ukraine have come under fire, a Russian regional official has said.

“Yesterday, on April 5, they tried to fire mortars at the position of our border guards in the Sudzhansky district,” Roman Starovoit, the governor of the Kursk region, stated, adding, “Russian border guards returned fire… There were no casualties or damage on our side.”

There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine.

Russia’s Gazprom continues gas exports to Europe via Ukraine

Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom is continuing to supply natural gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers, the company has said.

Gazprom estimated the request for gas exports to Europe through Ukraine to be of 108.3 million cubic metres on Wednesday.

Russians disrupt sowing season, loot equipment in Melitopol: Mayor

The mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol has stated Russian troops were “doing their best” to disrupt the sowing season.

“They mine fields, search storages with farming equipment, steal the equipment,” Ivan Fyodorov added.

Russia and Ukraine are the world’s largest wheat producers. The disruption of exports from Ukraine is likely to drive grain prices up, benefitting Russian farmers.

Website of Russian oil company Gazprom Neft goes down after apparent hack

The website of Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russian gas giant Gazprom, has gone down after an apparent hack.

The website briefly posted a statement purporting to be from Gazprom’s Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, making critical comments about Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine.

A Gazprom spokesman dismissed the statement as nonsense. The page stopped working soon afterwards.

Russia hits fuel depot, factory in Dnipropetrovsk: Ukraine

Russian forces have attacked overnight a fuel depot and a factory in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, governor Valentyn Reznichenko has said on Telegram.

The number of casualties was unclear.

“The night was alarming and difficult. The enemy attacked our area from the air and hit the oil depot and one of the plants. The oil depot with fuel was destroyed. Rescuers are still putting out the flames at the plant,” Reznichenko added.

UK: There’s a “worsening” humanitarian situation in Mariupol

Russian airstrikes and heavy fighting continue in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, according to an intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence issued Wednesday.

“The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening,” the intelligence update said, and “most of the 160,000 residents remaining have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water.”

“Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender,” it added.

On Monday, Mayor Vadym Boichenko stated the southern port city was “on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe,” with more than 100,000 people still requiring evacuation.

Ukrainian officials have consistently decried the Russian military for blocking humanitarian aid and reneging on pledges to allow evacuation corridors for civilians.

Moscow: West using expulsion of Russian diplomats as a political attack

Western countries in recent decades have begun using the declaration of Russian diplomats as personae non gratae as an information and political attack, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on the Sputnik radio on Wednesday.

“Over the last decades, the collective West has begun to use the declaration of Russian diplomats as personae non gratae, that is, imposing sanctions on them, isolating them from the opportunity to work in the region they had studied, <…> as a tool not of diplomatic work, but of information and political attack,” she continued.

According to Zakharova, the West “necessarily needs to show some kind of heaping of their actions.”

“They call it solidarity, but it has nothing to do with it,” the diplomat added.

The spokeswoman drew attention to the fact that the expulsion of Russian diplomats has always been carried out publicly, loudly, and demonstratively. Western countries even went so far as to start making public the names of diplomats and providing their personal data.

“All of this was accompanied <…> by conditions beyond our understanding, under which our diplomats had to leave the country,” she stated, “All this was done on purpose to create a sense of guilt on the Russian side for something that no one had done, at least under the headlines under which Russian diplomats were expelled. There was nothing in terms of factual arguments, it was purely a verbal attack.”

Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov stated on Tuesday expulsion of Russian diplomats from other countries is a shortsighted step.

“We are negative about it, we regret it,” he said, commenting on the situation around the expulsion of Russian diplomats.

“It is a shortsighted step to narrow possibilities for diplomatic communication, diplomatic work in such difficult conditions, such unprecedented difficult and crisis conditions. Such a step will complicate our communication, which is needed to try to find a way out, and will inevitable lead to response steps,” he stressed.

Russia can’t be excluded from UN Security Council: US Ambassador

Russia cannot be excluded from the UN Security Council, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with MSNBC.

“The Security Council was created as a product of the creation of the UN after World War II. They are a member of the Security Council. That’s a fact. We can’t change that fact,” Thomas-Greenfield added.

On Tuesday, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a speech before the UN Security Council, where Russia as a permanent member has the veto right, suggested that the council dissolve itself or exclude Russia.

New Zealand to impose ‘significant sanctions’ on Russian imports

The New Zealand government says it will introduce a 35 percent tariff on all imports from Russia and ban the export of industrial products such as telecoms equipment and engines to Russia.

“Our response to the war in Ukraine is the most significant response to an international crisis we’ve undertaken as a nation in recent history,” New Zealand’s Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor announced in a statement.

He added that images and reports of atrocities against civilians in Bucha were “abhorrent and “reprehensible” and that “New Zealand will not fund or support the Russia war machine”.

Canada blacklists more Russian, Belarusian individuals

Canada added nine Russian and nine Belarusian individuals into its sanctions blacklist, the Canadian government said in a document on sanctions over the situation in Ukraine, published on its website.

Among the blacklisted Russians are Vladimir Potanin, Viktor Vekselberg, Kirill Shamalov and Leonid Mikhelson. The Belarusian section of the blacklist includes deputy defense ministers Andrey Zhuk, Andrey Burdyko and Sergey Simonenko.

The blacklisted persons will face an asset freeze and travel ban.

Intel Suspends All Business Operations in Russia

“Effective immediately, we have suspended all business operations in Russia,” the company said.

“We are working to support all of our employees through this difficult situation, including our 1,200 employees in Russia. We have also implemented business continuity measures to minimize disruption to our global operations,” it added.

US to provide $100m in military aid to Ukraine after Bucha killings

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Washington will send an additional $100m in aid to Ukraine to meet its “urgent need” for anti-armour systems.

In a statement, Blinken stated this was the US’s sixth drawdown of arms, equipment, and supplies for Ukraine and that it brings the US’s total security assistance to Kyiv to more than $1.7bn since the Russian invasion began.

He added that he was “shocked and appalled” by the killings in Bucha and pledged to work with US allies to ensure accountability by documenting the reported abuses.

The Associated Press news agency, citing a US government official, announced the additional aid was for the transfer of Javelin anti-armour missiles.

Official: Over 200 people missing in Borodyanka, near Kyiv

A Ukrainian official has told the New York Times that as many as 200 people are missing and presumed dead in the town of Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv.

Heorgii Yerko, the town’s acting mayor, added the number is a rough estimate and that most of the bodies were likely trapped in the rubble of collapsed apartments.

Ukrainian officials have previously said the civilian toll in Borodyanka was likely “much worse” than that in neighbouring Bucha.

NATO chief expects to see ‘more mass graves’ as Russian troops retreat

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has blamed Russia for civilian killings in areas around Kyiv and said he expects more atrocities to come to light as Russian troops continue to retreat from the region.

Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels that “we haven’t seen everything that has taken place because Russia still controls most of these territories” around the capital.

“But when and if they withdraw their troops and Ukrainian troops take over, I’m afraid they will see more mass graves, more atrocities and more examples of of war crimes,” he added.

The secretary general also rejected Russian assertions that the atrocities were staged.

He stated that “these atrocities have taken place during a period in which Russia controlled these areas. So they are responsible”.

US defence chiefs defend Ukraine response, warn of ‘protracted conflict’

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has defended Washington’s response to the war in Ukraine, during a heated exchange with a Republican legislator who accused the Pentagon of over-estimating Russia’s military capability.

“Has it occurred to you that Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done? And our allies have done? Have you ever even thought about that?” Austin asked rhetorically to Representative Matt Gaetz during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.

Austin and other US officials say US support to Ukrainian forces, along with Ukraine’s strong will to fight, has thwarted Russia’s plans for a swift victory in a campaign now in its sixth week.

During the same hearing, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the conflict in Ukraine could last for years.

“I do think this is a very protracted conflict and I think it is at least measured in years,” Milley told legislators.

He added that “NATO, the United States, Ukraine and all of the allies and partners that are supporting Ukraine are going to be involved in this for quite some time”.

Zelensky urges more Russia sanctions over civilian killings

Ukraine’s president is calling on Western countries to impose additional sanctions on Russia as more evidence emerged of civilian killings in areas previously occupied by Russian troops.

“Now it’s a crucial moment, first of all for Western leaders,” Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

“After the things the world saw in Bucha, sanctions against Russia must be commensurate with the gravity of war crimes committed by the occupiers,” he added.

He stressed that even if the war ends Russia must not be allowed to go back to trading as normal and that European leaders who attempt it would pay a political penalty.

US to announce new sanctions on Russia

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has said that the US will announce new sanctions on Russia on Wednesday, including a ban on all new investment in Russia.

“They will target Russian government officials, their family members, Russian owned financial institutions, also state-owned enterprises,” Psaki stated during a news conference, about the upcoming measures.

“It’s part of the continuation of our efforts to put consequences, [to] hold Russian officials accountable,” she added.

The United States could impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adult children as early as Wednesday, according to a western official familiar with the plans.

Putin has acknowledged two daughters with his ex-wife Lyudmila Putin.

The White House has announced the latest round of sanctions will be applied in conjunction with European allies.

The Joe Biden administration is also eyeing an expansion of sanctions on Sberbank — Russia’s largest financial institution — and Alfa Bank — another large lender — the official stated.

Russia claims it launched missile strikes in western and northeastern Ukraine

Russian forces launched missile strikes in western and northeastern Ukraine Tuesday, hitting what Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov described as military facilities.

In a statement, Konashenkov said Russia launched precision air-launched missiles at targets in the vicinity of Zolochiv in western Lviv oblast and Chuhuiv in northeastern Kharkiv oblast.

He claimed the strikes destroyed a command post of a territorial defense unit, a fuel storage facility and an armored vehicle repair plant.

There have been no “major advances” in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia: Elysee Palace source

There have been no “major advances” in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, and the horrors witnessed over the weekend in the Ukrainian town of Bucha are not helping the talks, an Elysee Palace source said on Tuesday.

“Bucha’s shock is not conducive to progress on negotiations,” the source stated in a briefing following a one-hour long phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

The source added that Zelensky was still keen on “maintaining and advancing the talks with the Russians,” as well as on France’s mediation role.

The two leaders discussed the concrete measures to be put in place to “make sure that Russia’s crimes do not remain unpunished,” said the source, including France’s offer last week to send additional funding to the International Criminal Court.

Macron reiterated his country’s willingness to contribute to the investigation and documentation of the violence perpetrated against civilians, according to the source, and asked Zelensky about the reports of alleged rape committed by Russian soldiers against Ukrainian women “which the Ukrainian president confirmed,” added the source.

The condition in the besieged city of Mariupol was also discussed in the meeting, and Zelensky informed Macron that that only 2,000 people were able to leave this week because the “Russians were blocking” the evacuation corridors, according to the source.

Russian rejects Ukraine’s demands for troop pullout, referendum

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected Ukraine’s demands for an immediate pullout of Russian troops and a referendum on any prospective agreements reached at peace talks.

“We are concerned that the Ukrainian side has decided to demand that in case of signing the agreement … all combat actions must be stopped in several days and Russian armed forces must leave Ukraine,” he said in televised remarks.

“After this, there would be an alleged referendum, ratification in the parliament. There is a strong possibility that when the ratification and referendum give a negative result, we’ll need to start negotiation process anew. We don’t want to play such cat and mouse,” he added.

Explosions heard in west Ukraine: officials

No casualties were reported following explosions in the Lviv region in western Ukraine, local officials stated.

“Explosions near Radekhiv,” regional governor Maksim Kositsky said on Telegram, referring to a town about 70 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of Lviv.

“Everybody must remain in shelters,” Kositsky added

A short while later he noted in another post: “As of this hour, there is no information on victims.”

Twitter moves to limit reach of Russian government accounts

Twitter has introduced new measures against Russian government accounts in a bid to reduce the impact of official propaganda on the social network.

“We will not amplify or recommend government accounts belonging to states that limit access to free information and are engaged in armed interstate conflict — whether Twitter is blocked in that country or not,” Twitter said in a statement.

The company added it will also remove tweets posted by government or state-affiliated media accounts that share media that depict prisoners of war in the context of the conflict in Ukraine.

US providing Ukraine with protective chemical weapons gear: Official

The United States is providing Ukraine with life-saving protective equipment that could be deployed if Russia were to use chemical and biological weapons, a Joe Biden administration official has said, Reuters news agency reported.

The equipment and supplies, which were requested by Kyiv, are being delivered on a rolling basis and some has already been delivered, the official added.

Regional military governor: 6 killed and 8 injured after shelling hits Kharkiv and region

Oleh Syniehubov, the military governor of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, stated Tuesday that Russian shelling had killed six people and injured another eight in the city of Kharkiv and the region over the past day.

“Over the past day, the occupiers have struck 54 strikes from various long-range weapons: artillery strikes, mortar and tank shelling, MLRS shelling. The districts of Saltivka, Pyatihatka, Oleksiyivka, Kholodna Hora, Derhachi, Barvinkove, Chuhuiv were affected,” he said in a statement on Telegram.

“Among the civilian population there are victims of yesterday’s shelling in Kharkiv and Chuhuiv. In Kharkiv and the district — four dead, three people were hospitalized. In Chuhuiv district — two dead, five injured,” he added.

On Monday, Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, said Russia was focusing efforts to surround Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation troops in the country’s east and capture the city of Kharkiv.

“The Kharkiv region is ready for any scenario, our Armed Forces of Ukraine are on the positions and defending the region. We have to keep a strong rear,” Syniehubov added.

Some 20 people died in some occupied villages in Zaporizhzhia: Governor

The governor of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region has said some villages that were recaptured from Russian forces saw up to 20 people die while under occupation out of populations of around 120.

“You had a village of 120 people – 15, 17, 20 people died. If you compare that proportionally to Bucha, it’s the same loss, maybe even more,” stated Governor Oleksandr Starukh on national television.

Charity group claims team witnessed hospital bombing in Mykolaiv

Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said in a statement its team witnessed Russian strikes during a hospital visit on April 4 in Mykolaiv, Ukraine and managed to take cover and escape unharmed.

“Several explosions took place in close proximity to our staff over the course of about 10 minutes,” Michel-Olivier Lacharite, MSF head of mission in Ukraine, stated, adding, “As they were leaving the area, the MSF team saw injured people and at least one dead body.”

US, European allies to impose new sanctions

The United States and its European allies will impose stiff new sanctions, including a ban on new investments in Russia, a US official announced, in retaliation for Russia’s “war crimes” in Ukraine.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement, Reuters news agency reported.

The joint action will include a ban on new investment in Russia, toughened sanctions on its financial institutions and government-owned enterprises, and more sanctions on Russian government officials and their family members.

Zelensky urges Spain for tougher sanctions

Ukraine’s president urged all Spanish companies to completely halt business with Russia and called for tougher Western sanctions against Moscow that would include a ban on Russian oil imports.

Speaking in a video address to the Spanish Parliament, Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the Russian atrocities against civilians in Ukrainian cities, saying they represented war crimes for which Russian officers should face an international tribunal.

Zelensky added the “sanctions must be really powerful”.

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