U.S, Europe plan Russia sanctions as Ukraine warns of more civilian deaths

Apr 5, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, the U.S and Europe were planning new sanctions on Tuesday to punish Moscow over civilian killings in Ukraine, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned more deaths were likely to be uncovered in areas seized from Russian invaders.

Russian forces withdrew from towns north of the capital, Kyiv, last week as it turned its attack on southern and eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian troops have recaptured towns destroyed by nearly six weeks of fighting, including Bucha, where dead civilians stood on the streets.

US President Joe Biden has called for a war crimes trial against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the United States to ask the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

Russia denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians and said it would present “empirical evidence” to a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday proving its forces were not involved.

In an early morning video address, Zelenskyy said he would also address the Security Council on Tuesday as he builds support for an investigation into the killings in Bucha.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said he spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about Bucha and stressed “that Ukraine will use all available UN mechanisms to collect evidence and hold Russian war criminals to account.”

Kuleba also spoke with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in a phone call on Monday, with Beijing again calling for talks to end the conflict in Ukraine.

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

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday that Putin and his supporters would “feel the consequences” of events in Bucha and that Western allies would agree further sanctions against Moscow in the coming days. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said new US sanctions against Moscow would be announced this week.

The U.S State Department said it was supporting an international team of prosecutors and experts to collect and analyse evidence of atrocities.

France and Germany said they would expel Russian diplomats. Russia would respond in kind and “slam shut the door on Western embassies”, Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council Dmitry Medvedev said.

Russia supplies about a third of Europe’s gas, and Putin has tried to use energy as a lever to fight back against Western sanctions.

But Moscow has maintained gas flows through key pipeline routes into Europe, despite uncertainty over Putin’s demands for payments in roubles.

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

Ukraine said it was preparing for about 60,000 Russian reservists to be called in to reinforce Moscow’s offensive in the east, where Russia’s main targets have included the port of Mariupol and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

Ukraine’s general staff said Russian forces aimed to fully take over the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces claimed by Russian-backed separatists and encircle a group of Ukrainian forces.

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