Ukraine war: EU to study more Russia sanctions urgently as atrocities bring ‘genocide’ claims

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Ukraine war: EU to study more Russia sanctions urgently as atrocities bring 'genocide' claims

A mass grave is seen behind a church in the town of Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on April 3, 2022.   —  

There’ve been calls for an international probe into alleged Russian atrocities against civilians as Vladimir Putin’s forces retreated from the Kyiv region.

Moscow is concentrating its offensive on eastern and southern Ukraine. Thousands have died since Russia invaded the country on February 24, causing widespread devastation. Millions have fled their homes, creating Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The war has deepened the rupture between Russia and the West, where there are calls for more sanctions against Moscow.

Watch our TV coverage in the video player above, and follow the latest updates in our live blog below:

06:41

Monday’s key points:

    EU and UK leaders have evoked further sanctions against Moscow in the wake of mounting evidence of Russian atrocities against civilians amid the withdrawal from the outskirts of Kyiv.The Polish and Spanish prime ministers, speaking separately, have echoed the Ukrainian president’s allegations of «genocide», urging an international investigation. France’s President Macron says there’s clear evidence of Russian war crimes.Volodymyr Zelenskyy says a special justice unit will be set up to investigate Russian crimes in Ukraine, involving national and international investigators, prosecutors and judges.Ukraine’s prosecutor-general says the bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian troops.Zelenskyy appeared in a video at the Grammy Awards asking for support in telling the story of Ukraine’s invasion by Russia. In another video he slammed former German and French leaders Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy for their «policy of concessions to Russia».Germany’s defence minister says European officials should talk about halting gas supplies from Russia. Lithuania said on Sunday it is the first EU nation to cut itself off entirely from gas imports from Russia.Hungary’s newly re-elected leader Viktor Orban, who has refused arms shipments to Ukraine across Hungarian territory, listed Brussels and Zelenskyy among his enemies in a victory speech.The Ukrainian military says its forces have retaken some towns in the Chernihiv region and that humanitarian aid is being delivered.Russia has described the images from Bucha as a Ukrainian «hoax». Moscow asked for a special meeting of the UN Security Council but the UK that currently chairs it refused to convene it.

15:17

Lavrov should be prosecuted over ‘lies’ about atrocities — Ukraine MP

Russia’s top diplomat has dismissed Ukraine’s accusations that Russian troops committed atrocities against its civilians as a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation”.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made the comments at the start of his talks Monday with a senior UN official, arguing that the Ukrainian claim of a massacre of civilians in Bucha outside Kyiv is “a provocation that posed a direct threat to global peace and security”.

«Just for that he has to be brought to responsibility in front of a criminal court because these are lies, and these are absolutely unacceptable lies about human lives,» Ukrainian lawmaker Lesia Vasylenko told BBC radio.

«Who is taking those pictures and who is making those videos? The Ukrainian military, who is there on site, Ukrainian territorial defence who is also on site, and also international media… British, American, French, they are all there on site with their cameras and they can see what is happening, and it’s impossible to stage these kinds of crimes.»

She went on to call for the United Nations and its member states to act.

«We are talking about the crime of aggression, we are talking about the crime of genocide, which is being committed in the middle of Europe in the middle of the 21st century, and everybody is standing on the sidelines, not performing their responsibilities… and just watching all these crimes in Ukraine as if it was a Netflix documentary or TV series.»

«Russian aggression is on the rise… because Putin is not being stopped,» she said.

13:54

Chinese ‘solidarity with civilian victims’ — Ukraine’s foreign minister

13:29

Putin congratulates Moscow-friendly leaders of Hungary and Serbia on election wins

Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated the Moscow-friendly leaders of Hungary and Serbia on winning elections.

In a letter sent Monday to Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban whose right-wing Fidesz party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s vote, Putin said that “despite the difficult international situation, the further development of bilateral partnership fully conforms to the interests of peoples of Russia and Hungary,” according to the Kremlin.

Putin also congratulated Serbian President Alexandar Vucic on his re-election Sunday, saying that the outcome of the vote confirms a “broad public support” for his independent foreign policies.

The Russian leader voiced hope that Vucic’s activities will help further strengthen the “strategic partnership” between Russia and Serbia.

(AP)

13:15

UN high commissioner ‘horrified’ by images of dead civilians in Bucha

The UN high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet said she was «horrified by the images of civilians lying dead on the streets» in Bucha, Ukraine.

Bachelet said that the reports emerging from Ukrainian suburbs outside of Kyiv «raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes» in addition to «grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law.»

She said that it would be necessary to identify the victims and their exact causes of death as well as preserve evidence.

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

12:26

HRW war crimes evidence casts doubt on Kremlin denials

The discovery of a large number of civilian bodies in Bucha brought a flat denial from the Kremlin on Monday that Russia was responsible.

«We categorically reject all charges,» spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, saying Russian Defence Ministry experts found signs of «video tampering» and «fakes» in footage presented by Ukrainian authorities.

“Judging by what we have seen, we cannot trust these video images,” he said, calling on foreign leaders not to make «hasty accusations» against Moscow and to «at least listen to Russian arguments».

Independent journalists have seen, filmed and photographed the bodies found in Bucha and elsewhere, some in areas occupied by Russian forces only hours before. Locals have described civilians being shot in cold blood by Russian troops.

Human Rights Watch says it has «documented several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions».

12:02

Russian oligarch’s yacht searched in Mallorca

U.S. federal agents and Spain’s Civil Guard searched a yacht owned by a Russian oligarch on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca on Monday.

The law enforcement officers boarded the yacht at the Marina Real in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Associated Press reporters at the scene saw police going in and out of the boat on Monday morning.

A Civil Guard source told The Associated Press that the yacht named Tango is a 78-metre vessel that carries Cook Islands flag and that Superyachtfan.com, a specialized website that tracks the world’s largest and most exclusive recreational boats, values it at $120 million (€109 million). The source was not authorized to be named in media reports and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The yacht is among the assets linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire and close ally with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who heads the Moscow-based Renova Group, a conglomerate encompassing metals, mining, tech and other assets, according to U.S. Treasury Department documents. All of Vekselberg’s assets in the U.S. are frozen and U.S. companies are forbidden from doing business with him and his entities.

The Ukrainian-born businessman built his fortune by investing in the aluminum and oil industries in the post-Soviet era.

(AP)

11:32

Borrell cites ‘haunting images’ and vows more ‘urgent’ sanctions

The European Union’s top diplomat has joined a growing chorus of international criticism blaming the Russian armed forces for alleged atrocities committed against civilians in Ukraine.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says “the Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area. They are subject to the international law of occupation.”

Borrell said Monday that the “haunting images of large numbers of civilian deaths and casualties, as well as destruction of civilian infrastructures show the true face of the brutal war of aggression Russia is waging against Ukraine and its people.”

Working with the US, UK and other international partners, the EU has been ramping up sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February. Borrell says the 27-country bloc “will advance, as a matter of urgency, work on further sanctions against Russia.”

(AP)

10:32

Canada, Japan, Israel, New Zealand condemn Bucha atrocities

Among the worldwide condemnation of the alleged murder of civilians by Russian troops in Bucha, near Kyiv, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: «Those responsible for these egregious and appalling attacks will be brought to justice.»

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday that “we strongly condemn attacks on civilians” following reports of bodies found with signs of torture in areas abandoned by Russian forces. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno called for firm investigations by the International Criminal Court over Moscow’s “war crimes”.

Israel’s foreign minister has condemned the reported atrocities in Ukraine, saying deliberate harm to civilians is a war crime. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter that one “cannot remain indifferent” after seeing images from the town of Bucha near Ukraine capital.

Israel has walked a tightrope since Russia invaded Ukraine, simultaneously denouncing the invasion while avoiding taking too strident a stance out of concern of angering Moscow, with whom it has security coordination in neighbouring Syria.

Israel has good relations with both countries and has mediated between them since the invasion on February 24.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called reports of rape and other atrocities by Russian soldiers “beyond reprehensible.” 

“Russia must answer to the world for what they’ve done,” she said, adding that her Cabinet considered on Monday further measures New Zealand could take to support Ukraine and send a strong message to Moscow.

(with AP, AFP)

10:11

Polish PM calls for international inquiry into possible ‘genocide’

The Polish Prime Minister called on Monday to create an international commission of inquiry into what he called «genocide» committed by the Russian army in Ukrainian cities, including Bucha.

«These bloody massacres committed by Russians, Russian soldiers, deserve to be called by their name. It is genocide, and it must be judged,» Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters. «This is why we are proposing to set up an international commission to investigate this crime of genocide.»

His words were echoed by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who also spoke on Monday of a possible «genocide» in Ukraine after the massacre of civilians uncovered in Bucha, following the withdrawal of Russian troops from near Kyiv.

«We will do everything possible to ensure that those who perpetrated these war crimes do not go unpunished and can appear before the courts, in this specific case before the International Criminal Court, to answer for these alleged cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and, why not say it also, genocide,” Sanchez told an economic forum.

(AFP)

For a summary of Sunday’s developments, click here.

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