President Joe Biden on Monday called for a war crimes trial against Russian President Vladimir Putin and more sanctions against Russia following new reports of atrocities in Ukraine after Russian troops retreated from areas around Kyiv.
“We saw what happened in Bucha. He is a war criminal,” Biden told reporters when returning to the White House from Delaware. His State Department later said the barbaric acts were not rare individual instances but rather “part of a broader, troubling campaign.”
Biden joined a growing chorus of world leaders on Monday who condemned Russia after Ukrainian officials said the bodies of 410 civilians were found in Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces.
In Bucha, 280 people were buried in mass graves, according to Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited the city Monday. Associated Press reporters saw the bodies of at least 21 people in various spots around Bucha. Russian authorities have dismissed images of the dead civilians as fake.
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Leaders and top government officials in France, Albania, Kosovo, Spain, Poland, Estonia, Japan, New Zealand and the EU’s top diplomat condemned the actions, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an investigation. France and Germany expelled several Russian diplomats.
A new report from Human Rights Watch says the nonprofit has documented several cases of Russia committing “laws-of-war violations” against civilians in Ukraine. The report, released Sunday, said Russian military forces have committed war crimes in Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv, including repeated rape, two cases of summary execution and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians from Feb. 27 to March 14.
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►More than 1,500 civilians were evacuated Monday from the devastated port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. However, a Red Cross-accompanied convoy of buses was again thwarted in its effort to deliver supplies and evacuate residents, Vereshchuk said.
►The Ukrainian government says 18 journalists have been killed and 13 wounded in the country since the war began. In addition, eight have been abducted or taken prisoner and three are missing.
►The world’s largest aircraft, longer and wider than a football field, was destroyed by a Russian attack in the early days of the war, but its makers vow to restore it.
►In his annual letter to shareholders, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said managing sanctions against Russia has been an “enormous undertaking” and that the bank could lose $1 billion over time. The war and prior trade disputes with China “likely will affect geopolitics for decades,” he said.
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Visiting Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, where reports of dead civilians and mass graves have come to light after Russian troops retreated, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for Russia to reach an agreement to end the war.
Zelenskyy, however, also acknowledged the challenges in conducting peace talks after the killings in Bucha. “It’s very difficult to conduct negotiations when you see what they did here,” Zelenskyy said, adding that “dead people have been found in barrels, basements, strangled, tortured” in the suburb and elsewhere.
The BBC reported Zelenskyy met with local residents and reiterated that Russia had committed war crimes. He also called on Western leaders to come to Bucha to see the destruction.
Later, in a video address to the Romanian parliament, Zelenskyy said he fears there are places where even worse atrocities have occurred.
“The military tortured people, and we have every reason to believe that there are many more people killed,” he said. “Much more than we know now.”
The credible reports of torture, rape and civilian executions in Ukraine are probably not the acts of rogue soldiers, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday.
‘“They are part of a broader, troubling campaign,” he said at a State Department briefing.
Price said the world has been shocked by “the horrifying images of the Kremlin’s brutality” in Bucha and other cities near Kyiv.
Civilians, many with their hands tied, were apparently executed in the streets. Others were dumped in mass graves. As they’ve retreated, Russians have also left behind land mines and booby traps to injure more Ukrainians and slow recovery, Price said.
The apparent atrocities will be one of the topics of discussions when Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with his NATO counterparts in Belgium this week.
Allies are already discussing additional sanctions and ways to help Ukraine document war crimes for criminal prosecution, Price said. The U.S. has contributed both money and manpower to help Ukraine’s prosecutor general compile a case.
— Maureen Groppe
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that atrocities in the Ukrainian town of Bucha “show further evidence of war crimes,” echoing comments from President Joe Biden and vowing the U.S. will impose new sanctions on Russia this week.
“As the president said, we will work with the world to ensure there is full accountability for these crimes,” Sullivan said. “We are also working intensively with our European allies on further sanctions to raise the pressure and raise the cost on (President Vladimir) Putin in Russia.”
In Bucha, corpses could be seen lying in the street, some of them with their hands tied behind their back. Other images from the Kyiv suburb showed bodies scattered in debris-strewn streets and some thrown into a mass grave.
“We do not believe that this is just a random accident or the rogue act of a particular individual,” Sullivan said, reflecting an opinion also shared by the State Department. “We believe that this was part of the plan.”
Sullivan did not elaborate on the coming sanctions. He said Putin was “surprised” the U.S. was so effective uniting the world to respond to Russia’s aggression against its neighbor.
“The Russians have now realized that the West will not break,” Sullivan said, adding the next phase of the war may be protracted. “At this juncture, we believe that Russia is revising its war aims. Russia is repositioning its forces to concentrate its offensive operations in Eastern and parts of southern Ukraine, rather than target most of the territory.”
— Joey Garrison
Mounting evidence of Russian atrocities in Ukraine have prompted calls for a European boycott of oil and gas imports from Russia, which add up to $850 million a day, essentially bankrolling President Vladimir Putin’s war.
Losing that source of revenue would deeply harm the struggling Russian economy and might push Putin into negotiating a peace deal, but it’s not that simple, especially at a time of already soaring gasoline prices.
Russia produces about 40% of the natural gas the European Union uses to heat homes and generate electricity, among other necessities, and about 25% of the oil required to fuel its vehicles.
Germany, the EU’s largest economy, is trying to reduce its energy dependence on Russia but still gets 40% of its gas from Moscow. Italy, another major client, gets 38% of the natural gas used for electricity and for heavy industry from Russia. They figure to wield more clout in decisions regarding future sanctions than the likes of Lithuania, which has divested itself from Russian energy.
“We will likely continue to see resistance from Germany and a select few others as they’re simply far more reliant on Russian imports of oil, gas and coal,” said Craig Erlam, senior markets analyst for the U.K., Europe, Middle East and Africa at currency broker Oanda. “Forecasts for the impact of an embargo vary, but it would almost certainly tip the country into recession.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the country will investigate alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine as mounting reports show dead civilians outside Kyiv. The EU is offering to lend a hand.
Calling it a special justice mechanism, Zelenskyy said the probe would be in conjunction with international prosecutors and judges. “The time has come to make the war crimes committed by Russian troops the last such evil on Earth,” he said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the European Union was prepared to help Ukraine in the investigation.
“The perpetrators of these heinous crimes must not go unpunished,” she said in a statement after a call with Zelenskyy. Von der Leyen said the European Union would send a joint investigation team to help Ukrainian prosecutors collect evidence.
The long arm of the U.S. law has reached all the way to Spain to capture one of a Russian oligarch’s prized possessions.
The U.S. government on Monday seized a 254-foot yacht owned by Viktor Vekselberg, an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is the first such seizure by the Biden administration under sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. Some of the sanctions target pricey assets of Russian elites.
Associated Press reporters in the port of Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Spain’s Balearic Islands, watched FBI and Homeland Security agents along with members of the Spanish Civil Guard go in and out of the Tango, Vekselberg’s $120 million vessel.
All of Vekselberg’s assets in the United States are frozen and American companies are barred 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.
The United States is calling for Russia’s suspension from the United Nations Human Rights Council, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday.
The announcement comes after news of dead civilians and mass graves in Bucha, about 35 miles northwest of Kyiv. Noting the 140 countries that voted to condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, “My message to those 140 countries: the images out of Bucha and devastation across Ukraine require us to now match our words with action,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a tweet.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said efforts to remove Russia from the council came at the direction of President Joe Biden, adding that he believes it is “ludicrous” for Russia to be a member of the body.
Thomas-Greenfield said Russia should not have a position in a council that promotes human rights around the world and looks into alleged violations, where it’s able to use its position as “a tool of propaganda to suggest they have a legitimate concern about human rights.”
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Contributing: Rebecca Morin; The Associated Press