US and UK announce new sanctions against Russia as Ukraine warns residents in the east to evacuate ahead of a feared assault – part of a wider Russian offensive in Ukraine that continues on its 43rd day.

A woman carries her cat as she walks past buildings that were allegedly destroyed by Russian shelling in Borodyanka, in Kiev region, Ukraine, on April 5, 2022.
A woman carries her cat as she walks past buildings that were allegedly destroyed by Russian shelling in Borodyanka, in Kiev region, Ukraine, on April 5, 2022. (Reuters)

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Zelenskyy: Situation in Ukraine's Borodyanka 'more dreadful' than Bucha

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the situation in the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka is "significantly more dreadful" than in nearby Bucha.

"They have started sorting through the ruins in Borodianka," Zelenskyy said in his daily address to the nation. "It's much more horrific there, there are even more victims of Russian occupiers."

The killing of civilians in the town of Bucha has been widely condemned by the West as "war crimes", increasing pressure for stricter sanctions against Russia. Moscow has denied targeting civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace negotiations. 

Biden calls signs of Ukraine atrocities an 'outrage' to humanity

US President Joe Biden has called the images emerging as Russian troops withdraw from parts of Ukraine an "outrage" to humanity, as he hailed Moscow's expulsion from the UN Human Rights Council.

"Russia's lies are no match for the undeniable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine," Biden said in a statement.

"The signs of people being raped, tortured, executed -- in some cases having their bodies desecrated -- are an outrage to our common humanity."

EU nations ok new Russia sanctions, including on coal

European Union nations have approved new sanctions against Russia, including an EU embargo on coal imports in the wake of evidence of torture and killings emerging from battle zones outside Kiev.

The EU ban on coal is estimated to be worth $4.4 billion (4 billion euros) per year,  the EU presidency, held by France, announced.

The EU sanctions approved also included the freezing of assets of several Russian banks, an arms export embargo to Russia, and other export bans totaling some 10 billion euros. The nations also approved a further 5.5 billion in imports and a ban on port access for Russian vessels.

26 bodies found in two destroyed apartment buildings near Kiev: Ukraine

Ukraine has said it has recovered 26 bodies from underneath two destroyed apartment buildings in the town of Borodianka, north-west of Kiev, again accusing Moscow of targeting civilian areas.

"Just in the rubble of two apartment blocs, 26 bodies were recovered," Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said on Facebook. 

"Only the civilian population was targeted: there is no military site here," she said, adding it was "impossible to predict" how many more dead there were at the site.

UN aid chief: I'm not optimistic about Ukraine ceasefire

The United Nations’ humanitarian chief has said he's not optimistic about securing a ceasefire to halt the fighting in Ukraine, following high-level talks in Moscow and Kiev that underscored how far apart the two sides are.

Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths gave the bleak assessment in an interview in the Ukrainian capital after wrapping up talks with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and other top officials. That followed discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and officials in Moscow earlier in the week.

“I think it’s not going to be easy because the two sides, as I know now ...have very little trust in each other," he said. “I'm not optimistic,” he added later.

UN says at least 1,611 civilians lost their lives in Ukraine

At least 1,611 civilians have lost their lives in Ukraine while 2,227 have been injured since Russia began its "special military operation" in the neighboring country on February 24, the UN has said.

"Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes," the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in its daily update.

It added 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.

US ends normal trade ties with Russia over Ukraine offensive

The US Congress has voted to end normal trade relations with Moscow, as the White House ratcheted up pressure on President Vladimir Putin over his military operation in Ukraine. 

The legislation – which also applies to Russia's ally Belarus and enables President Joe Biden to inflict steep tariff hikes on imports – passed the Senate unanimously before being rubber-stamped by the House of Representatives.

Ukraine thanks UN for suspending Russia from human rights body

Ukraine's foreign minister has welcomed a decision by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over reports of violations and abuses of human rights by its troops in Ukraine.

"War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights. Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant UNGA resolution and chose the right side of history," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Russia bars Australian leaders and lawmakers from entering

Russia's Foreign Ministry has said it imposed entry bans on 228 Australian government members and lawmakers, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in response to sanctions from Canberra.

It published a list of 228 Australian lawmakers and government members who were barred from entering Russia. 

Russia calls its suspension from UN rights council illegal

Russia has said that a vote by United Nations member states to suspend it from the UN Human Rights Council is illegal and politically motivated, the RIA news agency has reported.

RIA also quoted Gennady Kuzmin, Deputy Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, as saying Russia had decided to give up its membership immediately, on April 7.

NATO countries to boost support for Ukraine

NATO foreign ministers have agreed to increase humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine.

The alliance is determined “to help the brave Ukrainians defend their homes and their country and push back the invading forces,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at a news conference after a two-day meeting of NATO’s top diplomats.

Stoltenberg said the “senseless war” must end, but warned that instead of a “rational retreat" NATO sees a “regrouping and repositioning” of Russian forces moving out from northern Ukraine to the east. “We expect a big battle in Donbass”, he said, stressing the urgency of NATO’s assistance to Ukraine.

UN General Assembly suspends Russia from human rights body

The United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council with the US-led push garnering 93 votes in favour, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. 

Images from Ukraine’s Bucha truly unacceptable: Cavusoglu 

Images from the Ukrainian town of Bucha are “truly unacceptable” and “disgraceful for humanity,” the Turkish foreign minister has said.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Mevlut Cavusoglu said that he had spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and told him that “the latest images from Bucha are truly unacceptable, disgraceful for humanity , and we have conveyed our discomfort (about it).”

"These scenes have overshadowed the negotiations," Cavusoglu said. "The emerging positive atmosphere, unfortunately, was overshadowed."

More than 4.3 million Ukrainians flee conflict: UN

More than 4.3 million Ukrainians have now fled their country since the Russian attack, the United Nations has said. 

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 4,319,494 Ukrainians had fled across the border since the conflict began on February 24 – a figure up 40,705 since Wednesday. The agency says it is Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II. 

The UN's International Organization for Migration estimates that 7.1 million internally displaced people had fled their homes but were still in Ukraine.

Ukraine tells NATO members to send arms before it's 'too late'

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said he expects NATO members to send Kiev the weapons it needs but insists they have to act quickly before Russia launches another major offensive.

"Either you help us now and I'm speaking about days, not weeks, or your help will come too late. And many people will die, many civilians will lose their homes, many villages will be destroyed. Exactly because this help came too late," Kuleba said after meeting NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

Ukraine dismisses Russian criticism of Kiev over peace talks as propaganda

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak has dismissed comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggesting Kiev presented it with a draft peace deal that deviated from proposals both sides had previously agreed on.

Podolyak said that Lavrov was not directly involved in negotiations and his statements were "of purely propagandistic significance".

Podolyak said Moscow wanted to divert attention from events in the town of Bucha, where Ukraine accuses Russian troops of killing civilians, and added: "That is how any such statements should be regarded." Moscow denies targeting civilians in Ukraine and has said the deaths in Bucha were a "monstrous forgery" staged by the West to discredit it.

NATO members agree to strengthen support to Ukraine: Stoltenberg

NATO members have agreed to strengthen support to Ukraine and are providing a wide range of weapon systems to the country, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said following a meeting of foreign ministers.

Stoltenberg told reporters that NATO members also agreed to do more to help other partners and shore up their ability to defend themselves, including Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Moscow accuses Ukraine of derailing talks

Russia has accused Ukrainian negotiators of changing demands since last month's talks in Istanbul, claiming that Kiev was not interested in ending the fighting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the Ukrainian side had presented its draft agreement. "It shows a departure from the most important provisions spelled out at the meeting in Istanbul on March 29," he said.

In Türkiye, "the Ukrainians clearly stated that future (international) security guarantees for Ukraine do not apply to Crimea and Sevastopol," Lavrov said, referring to the territory Moscow annexed in 2014. "In yesterday's draft, this clear statement is missing," he added.

Moscow vows response to latest US sanctions

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia intends to respond to US sanctions against President Vladimir Putin’s daughters as it sees fit.

“Russia will definitely respond, and will do it as it sees fit,” Peskov said. The US earlier announced that it is sanctioning Putin’s two adult daughters. 

Peskov told a conference call with reporters that the sanctions “add to a completely frantic line of various restrictions” and the fact that the restrictions target family members “speaks for itself.”

Russia must lower hostility to allow dialogue: Ukraine

Ukraine has urged Russia to show it was ready for dialogue by lowering “hostility” after Moscow accused Ukrainian negotiators of changing their demands since face-to-face talks in March.

“If Moscow wants to demonstrate its readiness for dialogue, it should lower the degree of hostility,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said on Twitter.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy says Russia must be brought to justice

Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the West to "bring Russia to justice", saying Moscow's actions were directed not only against Ukraine but also Europe. He reiterated calls that the democratic world reject Russian oil and block Russian banks.

"Once and for all, we can teach Russia and any other potential aggressors that those who choose war always lose...those who blackmail Europe with economic and energy crisis always lose," the President said in an address to Greek lawmakers.

Zelenskyy also called on Greece to use its clout in the EU to rescue the remaining population of "martyred" Mariupol. "We must save whoever we can," Zelenskyy said, adding that some 100,000 people were still left around the devastated city.

Please use your influence as EU members to better organise whatever rescue can be carried out in Mariupol

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Greek parliament

G7 says it condemns Russian atrocities in Ukraine

G7 foreign ministers have condemned what they said are atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Ukraine, adding that those responsible would be held to account.

"We, the G7 Foreign Ministers...and the High Representative of the European Union, condemn in the strongest terms the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in Bucha and a number of other Ukrainian towns," they said a joint statement.

Estonia says it will stop importing Russian gas

Estonia will stop importing Russian gas and will instead lease a liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal together with Finland by autumn, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has said, according to a report by the BNS news agency.

"We must stop buying gas from the Putin regime, which is using the money in the war against Ukraine, as soon as possible," she told a news conference in Tallinn, according to BNS. Her government did not set a date for an end to imports from Russia.

Minister: Russia's long-term goal is to take all Ukraine

Russia's long-term objective is to seize all of Ukraine even though its short-term focus is on fighting in eastern Ukraine, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar has said.

She said Russian forces were biding their time in Ukraine as Moscow stepped up intelligence operations in the country and learnt how best to fight Ukrainian troops.

Kremlin says it will decide on Putin's G20 participation based on how events unfold

The Kremlin has said it will make a decision on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a G20 summit later this year in Indonesia based on how events evolve.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was responding to a question about calls by some leaders of G20 countries to exclude Putin. "We will clarify this, after all Indonesia is the organiser," Peskov said.

Peskov added that Washington's decision to keep supplying Ukraine with weapons and military assistance would "have a negative effect" on peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

Russian attacks focus on east Ukraine, Mariupol holding out

Russian air attacks are now focused mainly on areas of eastern Ukraine with Russian forces trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the region, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has said.

He said the besieged southern city of Mariupol was holding out and that he believed the Russian efforts to surround Ukrainian troops in the east would be in vain."The situation is under control," he said on national television.

Separately, the British military intelligence has said Russian artillery and air strikes are continuing along the Donbass line of control. The Ministry of Defence said on Twitter the main focus of Russian forces was to carry out offensive operations in the east.

Russia destroys fuel storage facilities in four Ukrainian cities

The Russian defence ministry has said its missiles have destroyed four fuel storage facilities in the Ukrainian cities of Mykolayiv, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Chuhuiv.

The ministry said the facilities were used by Ukraine to supply its troops near the cities of Mykolaiv and Kharkiv and in the Donbass region in the far southeast.

France summons Russian envoy over 'obscene' Bucha tweet

The French government has summoned Russia's ambassador to Paris for talks after his embassy posted a photo on Twitter claiming to show a "film set" by Ukrainians staging civilian killings in Bucha that have stoked global outrage.

"In response to the obscene and provocative communications by the Russian embassy in France with regards to the Bucha atrocities, I have decided to summon the Russian ambassador," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The tweet, which was later deleted, appeared to show bodies being placed in a street, and was captioned "Film set, town of Bucha."

Kiev accuses Hungary of 'helping Putin' in Ukraine 

Ukraine has accused its neighbour, Kremlin-ally Hungary, of appeasing Russian aggression and disrupting EU unity following a telephone call between the Hungarian and Russian leaders.

"Apparently, after the elections, Budapest moved on to the next step — helping (Russian President Vladimir) Putin continue his aggression against Ukraine," the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Putin congratulated Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban after his party won a fourth term in general elections last week. The two leaders spoke again on Wednesday and Orban told Putin that would Hungary would be prepared to pay Russia in roubles for gas imports.

EU's full ban on Russian coal to be pushed back to mid-August

European Union envoys are set to approve a ban on Russian coal that would take full effect from mid-August, a month later than initially proposed, an EU source has told Reuters, following pressure from Germany to delay the measure.

The phase-out of EU imports of Russian coal is the cornerstone measure in a fifth package of sanctions against Russia that the EU Commission proposed this week, as a reaction to atrocities in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

Once approved, it will be the EU's first ban on any import of energy from Russia since the start of what the Kremlin calls a "special operation" in Ukraine on February 24. Oil and gas, which represent far bigger imports from Moscow, are still untouched.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy to meet EU's von der Leyen on Friday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will have talks in Kiev with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukrainian presidential spokesperson Sergii Nykyforov has said on national television.

He said other details of the talks would not be announced for security reasons. A European Union spokesperson said the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, would also travel to Kiev this week.

Greece to call ICC to probe 'crimes of war' in Mariupol

Greece is to call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe "crimes of war" in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol, where there was a sizeable Greek community before Russia's assault, its foreign minister has said.

"Greece is going to ask the international court in The Hague to investigate crimes of war conducted in Mariupol," Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said as he arrived for the second day of a NATO meeting on Ukraine.

"Greece has a specific, special interest for Mariupol because of the existence of a 100,000 and more Greek community in Mariupol," he said.

Russia takes measures against Google over YouTube 'fakes'

Russia's communications watchdog has said it will take part in punitive measures against Google, including a ban on advertising the platform and its information resources, for allegedly violating Russian law.

The Roskomnadzor watchdog accused YouTube, which has blocked Russian state-funded media globally from using its platform, of becoming "one of the key platforms spreading fakes (fake images) about the course of (Russia's) special military operation on the territory of Ukraine, discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation".

Germany intercepts calls with Russians discussing killings: Magazine

Germany's intelligence agency has intercepted radio messages from Russian military sources discussing the killing of civilians in Bucha, news magazine Der Spiegel has reported. It said the agency presented the findings in parliament on Wednesday, without giving a source for the information.

According to Der Spiegel, the radio messages corresponded with known deaths. In one intercept, a soldier discusses shooting someone off their bicycle. A body was photographed lying next to a bicycle.

Spiegel added that there were additional sound recordings whose physical origin was harder to pinpoint, which it said suggested similar events had occurred in other Ukrainian cities.

Ukraine FM tells NATO allies to give Kiev all weapons 'it needs'

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on NATO members to provide Kiev with all the weaponry it needs. He has also said his country is seeking "long-term solutions" that will help Ukraine prevail against Russia.

"My agenda is very simple. It has only three items on it. Its weapons, weapons, and weapons," Kuleba told journalists at NATO headquarters. "I call on all allies to put aside their hesitations, their reluctance, to provide Ukraine with everything it needs."

Ukraine is pushing the West to increase its arms supplies with heavier weaponry, including air defence systems, artillery, tanks and jets, as Moscow refocuses its offensive on the east of the country.

Ukraine to press West for full energy embargo on Russia

Ukraine will keep up demands for an oil and gas embargo on Russia, the Ukrainian foreign minister has said, as the EU promised a fifth round of sanctions by Friday.

Dmytro Kuleba will address NATO's 30 allies, as well as the European Union, Finland, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, in a special session of foreign ministers to maintain international support for sanctions and weapons supplies.

"We will continue to insist on full oil and gas embargo," he told reporters. "I think the deal that Ukraine is offering is fair. You give us weapons, we sacrifice our lives, and the war is contained in Ukraine," he said.

Borrell: New EU sanctions could be agreed Thursday or Friday

A fifth round of European Union sanctions on Russia, including a ban on coal imports, could be agreed by the bloc on Thursday or on Friday, the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has said.

"Maybe this afternoon, or tomorrow at the latest," he told reporters as he arrived at a NATO meeting.

Civilians try to flee east Ukraine as Russia prepares attack

Desperate evacuation attempts from eastern Ukraine are under way. Begging civilians to leave the region "while it is still possible", local officials in Donbass' Luhansk and Donetsk said the region was already facing constant indiscriminate shelling.

Local governor Sergey Gaiday in Luhansk said on Facebook that more than 1,200 people had been evacuated from Luhansk on Wednesday, but that efforts were being hampered by artillery fire.

For those that unable to leave, he said, tonnes of food, medicine and hygiene products were being delivered as part of a massive humanitarian effort.

Austria to expel four Russian diplomats

Austria will expel four Russian diplomats for acting in a way incompatible with their diplomatic status, a spokesperson for its foreign minister has said, joining a group of European Union countries that have taken similar action this week.

Unlike those other EU countries, which include France, Italy and Germany, the spokesperson for Alexander Schallenberg did not say the move was because of Russian forces' actions in Ukraine.

The three diplomats working at Russia's embassy and one based in Salzburg must leave the country by April 12, she said.

Australia to impose sanctions on 67 Russians over Ukraine

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said Australia will impose sanctions on 67 Russians over Moscow's assault on Ukraine.

"Today, I'm announcing 67 further sanctions of Russian elites and oligarchs, those close to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin who facilitate and support his outrageous actions," she told reporters as she arrived at NATO.

UNGA to vote on suspending Russia from rights council

The UN General Assembly will vote on a US-initiated resolution to suspend Russia from the world organisation’s leading human rights body over allegations that Russian soldiers killed civilians while retreating from the region around Ukraine's capital.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the call for Russia to be stripped of its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council in the wake of videos and photos of streets in the town of Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians. Russia has vehemently denied its troops were responsible.

“We believe that the members of the Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, and we believe that Russia needs to be held accountable,” Thomas-Greenfield said Monday. “Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce.”

We cannot let a member state that is subverting every principle we hold dear to continue to sit on the UN Human Rights Council.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the UN

US Senate to decide on trade with Russia

The US Senate will take up legislation to end normal trade relations with Russia and to ban the importation of its oil.

Both bills have been bogged down in the Senate, frustrating lawmakers who want to ratchet up the US response to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to be held accountable for what Schumer said were war crimes against Ukraine.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy: Delay on Russia oil embargo decision is costing lives

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the democratic world to reject Russian oil and said the failure to quickly agree to an embargo was costing Ukrainian lives.

"The embargo on Russian oil supply will still be applied. The format will be found. The only question is how many more Ukrainian men, how many more Ukrainian women, the Russian military will have time to kill, so that you, some politicians –– and we know who you are –– will borrow some determination somewhere," Zelenskyy said. 

It comes as Ukrainian authorities say nearly 5,000 people were evacuated from combat areas ahead of a feared Russian attack in the eastern regions. 

Russia accuses Ukraine of disrupting prisoner exchange

Russia has said that Ukraine at the last minute refused to carry out an earlier agreed exchange of "prisoners of war".

"The list of 251 servicemen declared for exchange was repeatedly shortened. The number of prisoners of war for the exchange was repeatedly reduced. The list agreed at the last stage in the amount of only 38 servicemen was also suddenly revoked this morning by the Ukrainian side without explanation," said Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of Russia’s National Defence Management Center.

For live updates from Wednesday (April 6), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies