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Ukraine: Europe discusses new sanctions, the UN “horrified” by Boutcha

According to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, the lifeless bodies of 410 civilians were found in these territories of the Kyiv region. (Photo: Getty Images)

This text brings together all the latest developments about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the day from April 04. To find all our coverage on the conflict, it’s here. Ed. Some content is self-explanatory and may be difficult to read.

7:57 am | Bucha — Europeans, revolted by the images of dozens of corpses found around Kyiv, are discussing on Monday an increase in sanctions against Moscow, accused of “genocide” in Ukraine, but which categorically rejects all these accusations.

Several Western capitals and the UN expressed their indignation in the morning after the Russian withdrawal from Boutcha, in the northwestern suburbs of Kyiv, and the discovery on the spot of many bodies of civilians in the streets or mass graves.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said she was “horrified” by this information which “raises serious and worrying questions about possible war crimes” and “serious violations of human rights” , calling “to preserve all evidence”.

After the broadcast of these images, the European Union discussed Monday in “emergency” new sanctions against Moscow, demanded in particular by France and Germany, said the high representative of the EU Josep Borrell.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez spoke on Monday of a possible “genocide” and called for the appearance of the culprits “before the International Criminal Court”.

In the process, the Prime Minister of Poland, Ukraine’s western neighbor, took up the term “genocide” and called for the creation of an international commission of inquiry on this subject.

Visiting Warsaw on Monday, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said he was “deeply shocked”. “The killing of innocent civilians is (…) unacceptable, and I strongly condemn these actions,” he said.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky castigated the Russian “murderers, torturers, rapists, looters” responsible for the “murders” and “tortures” in Boutcha.

The Kremlin reacted strongly on Monday morning by rejecting “categorically all the accusations”, through the voice of its spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who called on foreign leaders not to advance “hasty accusations” against Moscow. and to “at least listen to the Russian arguments”.

According to him, experts from the Russian Ministry of Defense found signs of “video falsifications” and “fakes” in the images presented by the Ukrainian authorities as evidence of a Russian massacre.

“Bullet in the Neck”

The Russian army had reached Boutcha and the nearby town of Irpin, which borders Kyiv to the northwest, very soon after the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. In the weeks that followed, the two cities were the scene of fierce fighting which partly devastated them and caused most of the inhabitants to flee.

The Ukrainians announced that they had resumed them in recent days, after the Russians indicated that they were loosening the noose on Kyiv and the north to concentrate their military efforts on the east of the country.

The total number of deaths in the territories of the Kyiv region recently recaptured from Russian troops remains uncertain. According to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Iryna Venediktova, the remains of 410 civilians were found there.

On Saturday, AFP had seen in Boutcha the corpses of at least 22 people wearing civilian clothes in the streets. The mayor of the city, Anatoli Fedorouk, had assured that they were killed with “a bullet in the neck”, suggesting massive summary executions on the part of Russian soldiers.

Mr. Fedorouk also claimed that “280 people” had been buried “in mass graves”, because they could not be buried in communal cemeteries, all within range of Russian fire during the fighting.

“Judging by what we have seen, these video images cannot be trusted,” Mr. Peskov replied.

Moscow, which denies any abuse of its own, announced Monday that it would investigate this “hateful provocation” which, according to it, aims to “discredit” Russian forces in Ukraine. And asked for a meeting of the UN Security Council to rule on these abuses committed according to her by “Ukrainian radicals” in Boutcha.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Britain’s Martin Griffiths, arrived in Moscow on Sunday evening and was due to travel to kyiv, mandated to seek a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine. Until now, Russia has refused any visit by a senior UN official whose main subject is Ukraine.

At Kramatorsk station, in the east of the country still under kyiv control, there were hundreds of them this weekend waiting for their train to flee west, for fear of being surrounded by the Russians.

“A lot of people have already left, the men are staying, our families are leaving,” grimaced Andreï, whose wife and two children were waiting quietly, luggage at their feet. Like many others, he is distressed, because “the bombardments could start at any time”.

Gas and talks

In the south, eight people were killed and 34 injured in Russian bombings on Sunday on the cities of Otchakiv and Mykolaiv, the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office said on Monday.

Westerners now want to adopt new measures against Moscow, after having already acted on several sets of sanctions since February 24, massively targeting companies, banks, senior officials, oligarchs, and prohibiting the export of goods to Russia.

In a tweet, the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba, demanded the immediate adoption of “new devastating G7 sanctions”, citing in particular the “embargo on oil, gas and coal” and the closure of “all ports to Russian ships and goods”.

The pressure thus bears in particular on hydrocarbons, an important financial resource for Russia. As early as Saturday, the Baltic states had announced the cessation of their import of Russian gas and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda had called on the rest of the EU to follow them.

The United States banned the import of Russian oil and gas shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, but not the EU, which was sourcing around 40% from Russia in 2021.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced on Monday that it was suspending access to Russia and its ally Belarus to its funding and expertise.

On the Moscow side, we are already anticipating a possible increase in sanctions. “Sooner or later, we will have to establish a dialogue, whether someone across the Atlantic wants it or not,” the Kremlin spokesman stressed.

It is unclear what impact Boutcha will have this week on the difficult but hopeful Russian-Ukrainian talks. Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, welcomed a “more realistic” position, according to him, from kyiv, ready under conditions to accept a neutral status for the country, demanded by Moscow, and Dmitry Peskov said of a Putin- Zelensky that, “hypothetically, such a meeting is possible”.

Ukrainian chief negotiator David Arakhamia said on Saturday that Moscow had “orally” accepted all Ukrainian positions, “except with regard to the Crimea issue”.

The intense war has caused at least thousands of deaths and forced into exile more than 4.2 million Ukrainians, 90% of them women and children.

On the next page, an update on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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