US, EU plan Russia sanctions as outrage grows over Bucha killings

  • Global outrage continues to mount over the killing of civilians in Bucha, near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
  • US President Joe Biden has called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and suggested holding a “war crimes trial”.
  • The Kremlin has categorically denied accusations that its forces have killed civilians in Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainian government has demanded crippling new sanctions from Western powers over what it called the Bucha “massacre”.
  • A team from the Red Cross says it was prevented from reaching the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol to evacuate civilians.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he will address the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday.

Here are all the latest updates:

165 children killed by Russians: Ukrainian prosecutors

At least 165 children have been killed in Ukraine including four in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian prosecutors said have said
Some 266 have been wounded, the General Prosecutor’s Office said on Telegram.

Most of them lost their lives in the southeastern Donetsk region that is partially controlled by separatists and Russian troops (78), around Kyiv (77) and the eastern region of Kharkiv (61), it said.

It also said that 869 educational buildings such as schools have been damaged, 83 of them completely destroyed.

Reporting by Al Jazeera’s Mansur Mirovalev in Vinnytsia, Ukraine

French minister: EU likely to adopt new Russia sanctions

The EU will likely adopt a new round of sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune has said.

The latest possible measure come after reports of killings of civilians in northern Ukraine by Russian forces.

“The new sanctions will probably be adopted tomorrow”, he told RFI radio, adding the EU should also quickly act on gas and coal imports from Russia.

Russia denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians.

Bucha civilians killed
SUkrainian servicemen carry a dead body found in a basement in the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine. [File: Marko Djurica/Reuters]

Red Cross team ‘released’ after stopped on way to Mariupol

An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team has been released after they were stopped on the way to the southern city of Mariupol, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vershchuk.

“After negotiations, they were released during the night and sent to Zaporizhzhia,” she said.


Withdrawing Russian troops likely to require ‘significant re-equipping’ before redeployment: UK

The British Ministry of Defence says Ukrainian forces have retaken key northern terrain, forcing Russian forces to retreat from areas around the city of Chernihiv and north of the capital, Kyiv.

Low-level fighting is likely to continue in some of the recaptured areas, but reduce this week as the remainder of the Russian forces withdraw, the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

“Many Russian units withdrawing from northern Ukraine are likely to require significant re-equipping and refurbishment before being available to redeploy for operations in eastern Ukraine.”

Japan brings in 20 Ukrainian refugees on special flight

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has returned from Poland with 20 Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s ongoing war on their country.

“The government of Japan is committed to provide the maximum support to these 20 Ukrainians to help them live with a sense of peace in Japan, even though they are far away from their home county,” Hayashi told reporters in Poland shortly before he and the refugees set off for Tokyo.

Japan has an extremely strict refugee policy and has been reluctant to fully accept migrant workers, making its offer to accept Ukrainians unusual.

Tokyo has previously accepted nearly 400 Ukrainians, all relatives of about 2,000 Ukrainian residents in Japan who arrived on their own since the Russian invasion began.

A government's special plane transporting Ukrainian refugees, arrives at the Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan April 5, 2022,
A special government plane (top) transporting Ukrainian refugees, arrives at the Haneda airport in Tokyo, Japan April 5, 2022 [Kyodo via Reuters]

China, Ukraine foreign ministers speak by phone

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, in a phone call on Monday.

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 Wang to use Beijing’s ties with Moscow to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

During Monday’s call, Wang again urged talks to end the conflict, according to Chinese state media.

“Wars end eventually,” Wang said. “The key is how to reflect on the pain, to maintain lasting security in Europe and establish a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism.”

He added that China “stands ready to play a constructive role in this regard in an objective position”.

Kuleba, in a Twitter post, said he was “grateful to my Chinese counterpart for solidarity with civilian victims”.

He added, “We both share the conviction that ending the war against Ukraine serves common interests of peace, global food security and international trade.”

US stops Russian bond payments

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

Under sanctions put in place after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, foreign currency reserves held by the Russian central bank at US financial institutions were frozen.

But the US Department of Treasury had been allowing the Russian government to use those funds to make coupon payments on dollar-denominated sovereign debt on a case-by-case basis.

On Monday, as the largest of the payments came due, including a $552.4m principal payment on a maturing bond, the US government decided to cut off Moscow’s access to the frozen funds, according to a US Treasury spokesperson.

An $84m coupon payment was also due on Monday on a 2042 sovereign dollar bond.

The move was meant to force Moscow to make the difficult decision of whether it would use dollars that it has access to for payments on its debt or for other purposes, including supporting its war effort, the spokesperson said.

Russia faces a historic default if it chooses to not do so.

“Russia must choose between draining remaining valuable dollar reserves or new revenue coming in, or default,” the spokesperson said.

Russia trying to hide ‘guilt in mass killings’ in Mariupol: Zelenskyy

the Ukrainian president has accused Russian forces of launching a campaign to hide evidence of mass killings of civilians in the besieged port city of Mariupol.

“We must also be aware that after the revealed mass killings of civilians in the Kyiv region, the occupiers may have a different attitude to their crimes in another part of our country where they came,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“They are already launching a false campaign to conceal their guilt in the mass killings of civilians in Mariupol,” he said.

The invading soldiers will stage interviews, edit recordings and kill people specifically to make it look like they were killed by someone else, he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks from Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP]

Russia slams US, UK efforts to suspend it from UN rights body

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia has reacted furiously to the US and UK’s efforts to suspend Moscow from the UN Human Rights Council.

“This is unbelievable,” he said.

“What the West is trying to do with Russia, trying to exclude it from multilateral forums we are having in the world … this is unprecedented.”

He added, “This will not facilitate or encourage or be helpful to what is happening between Russian and Ukrainians in peace talks.”

Vassily Nebenzia, permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council,
Vassily Nebenzia, permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, speaks during a meeting of the UN Security Council, Tuesday, March 29, 2022, at the UN headquarters [John Minchillo/AP Photo]

UK calls for Russia’s suspension from UN rights body

The United Kingdom has backed Washington’s effort to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over the civilian killings in Ukraine’s Bucha.

“Given strong evidence of war crimes, including reports of mass graves and heinous butchery in Bucha, Russia cannot remain a member of the UN Human Rights Council. Russia must be suspended,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Facebook briefly blocks hashtags tied to Bucha killings

Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook and Instagram, has confirmed that it briefly restricted hashtags related to civilian deaths in Ukraine’s Bucha.

Meta spokesman Andy Stone said automated systems that scan for violent imagery on Facebook and Instagram were responsible for blocking hashtags including #bucha and #buchamassacre.

“This happened automatically because of the graphic content people posted using these hashtags. When we were made aware of the issue yesterday, we acted quickly to unblock the hashtags,” he wrote on Twitter.

Facebook and Instagram permit the posting of graphic and violent content when it is shared to raise awareness of possible human rights abuses, but delete the content if it is extremely explicit or celebrates suffering.

Kharkiv braces for more Russian attacks

Ukrainian officials have warned that Russian forces are preparing to seize the eastern city of Kharkiv, but said Ukrainian troops are holding their positions and are pushing the invading soldiers back.

Oleksandr Motuzianyk, spokesman for the Ukrainian defence ministry, told reporters that Russian troops were concentrating their “main efforts on preparations for offensive operations” to capture besieged Kharkiv.

But Russian forces are not yet able to approach the city just yet, said Oleg Sinegubov, the governor of Kharkiv region.

“Currently our armed forces are holding their positions, and in some directions we are pushing the enemy out of Kharkiv’s towns,” he told Ukrainian television.

“The situation is changing by the hour. Currently, we understand that the enemy is unable to make an approach to Kharkiv.”

Torture chamber found in Bucha children’s facility: Prosecutor’s office

Ukrainian police have found a “torture chamber” in the basement of a children’s sanatorium in Bucha, the prosecutor general’s office said.

In a Telegram post, the office said “police found the bodies of five men with their hands tied” there.

“Military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation tortured unarmed civilians and then killed them.”

Ira Gavriluk holds her cat as she walks among the bodies of her husband, brother, and another man, who were killed outside her home in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022.
Ira Gavriluk holds her cat as she walks among the bodies of her husband, brother, and another man, who were killed outside her home in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, April 4, 2022 [Felipe Dana/AP Photo]

Red Cross involved in collecting evidence of Bucha killings: Ukraine official

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky has pledged a speedy independent review and documentation of atrocities discovered in Bucha.

“As soon as the bridges that the Russians blew up during their retreat have been repaired, experts will have access,” he told the German daily Tagesspiegel.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was already involved in collecting evidence, the minister said, adding that other international experts would soon join the investigation.

About two-thirds of Russian troops located near Kyiv have now left: US official

A senior US defence official says about two-thirds of the roughly 20 Russian battalions that had been located around Kyiv have now left and are either in Belarus or on their way there.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a military assessment, said the US assesses that Russian forces are being resupplied and reinforced in Belarus and would then go back into Ukraine, potentially in the Donbas region in the east.

In addition, the official said Russian troops have been moving out of Sumy and back into Russia.

But they have been reinforcing and repositioning their artillery and putting more energy into the fight around the city of Izyum, which lies on a key route to the Donbas.

US allocates $250,000 to help Ukraine deal with potential chemical attack

The US is allocating $250,000 to the global chemical weapons watchdog to provide assistance to Ukraine if it is targeted or threatened with chemical weapons.

Marc Shaw, deputy assistant secretary at the US Department of State, said in a statement that he hoped the money will allow the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to “quickly assist Ukraine as it seeks protection against chemical threats from the Russian government”.

18 journalists killed in Ukraine since Russian invasion: Ministry

The Ukrainian Culture and Information Ministry says 18 journalists have been killed in the country since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

In a statement on Telegram, the ministry said the victims included 15 men and three women.

The ministry added that 13 other journalists had been wounded, eight had been abducted or taken prisoner and three journalists were still missing.

Reporters Without Borders, the global media watchdog, says it has documented the death of seven journalists in Ukraine.

Ukraine registers 7,000 reports of Russian war crimes in Kyiv: Prosecutor

Ukraine’s Prosecutor Genera Iryna Venediktova says her office has registered more than 7,000 cases alleging Russian war crimes in the Kyiv region.

She said her office has already started investigating war crimes in Irpin, Bucha and Worsel.

US seeks to suspend Russia from UN human rights body

The US says it plans to ask the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council after Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing dozens of civilians in the town of Bucha.

A two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member assembly in New York can suspend a state for persistently committing gross and systematic violations of human rights.

“Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce,” US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on a visit to Romania.

“And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to remove them.”

Thomas-Greenfield said she wants to have the vote this week.

A set of satellite images of a Bucha street appear to show several bodies in or just off the road where Ukraine officials have accused the Russians of killing civilians.

The photographs, taken in mid-March by Maxar Technologies, seem to rebut Russian assertions that the bodies in civilian clothing found in Bucha appeared there after its forces had retreated.

“High-resolution Maxar satellite imagery collected over Bucha, Ukraine (northwest of Kyiv) verifies and corroborates recent social media videos and photos that reveal bodies lying in the streets and left out in the open for weeks,” Maxar Technologies spokesman Stephen Wood said in a statement, according to the AFP news agency.

In an analysis of the images alongside footage from April 1 and 2, The New York Times concluded that many of the bodies had been there for at least three weeks.

This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on April 4, 2022 shows a view of Yablonska Street in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 19, 2022.
This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on April 4, 2022, shows a view of Yablonska Street in Bucha, Ukraine, on March 19, 2022 [Maxar Technologies/AFP]

‘No place for Russia’ on UN Human Rights Council: Kuleba

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says he has been speaking to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the latest security situation in the country and “the Bucha massacre”, and stressed that Ukraine would use “all available UN mechanisms” to gather evidence of what happened and hold Russia to account.

There can be “no place for Russia on the UN Human Rights Council”, Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Canada’s Trudeau promises to hold ‘Putin and his enablers’ accountable

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his government will not “spare any effort” to make sure violations of international law in Ukraine are investigated.

In a tweet, Trudeau also said Ottawa would continue to hold Putin accountable, pointing to fresh sanctions targeting nine Russian and nine Belarusian officials that it accused of enabling “violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence”.

“We won’t relent in holding Putin and his enablers accountable,” Trudeau said.

Investigation in Bucha needs to happen ‘as soon as possible’: UN

UN officials, including Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, have said there is enough evidence to prompt a war crimes investigation in Bucha, and the UN is working to get investigators there, Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey reported.

“What we’ve been hearing from UN officials is the need for an independent investigation and that was perhaps the overarching call from [Guterres] today,” Saloomey said, adding that they said such a probe must be done “as soon as possible”.

She said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also said that bodies found in the streets of the Ukrainian town “need to be identified” and “investigated for a cause of death”.

Zelenskyy to address UNSC

Zelenskyy has said he will address the UNSC on Tuesday.

Speaking during his nightly video address, he also said it is in Kyiv’s interest to have the most open investigation possible into the killing of civilians in Ukraine.

“I would like to emphasise that we are interested in the most complete, transparent investigation, the results of which will be known and explained to the entire international community,” Zelenskyy said.

He said that in Bucha, where mass graves and bodies were found after Ukraine took the town back from Russian forces, at least 300 civilians have been killed, and he expects that in Borodyanka and other towns the number of casualties may be even higher.

Mariupol ’90 percent destroyed’: Mayor

The Ukrainian port city of Mariupol has been “90 percent” destroyed after being besieged by Russian forces for weeks, Mayor Vadym Boychenko has said.

“The sad news is that 90 percent of the infrastructure in the city is destroyed and 40 percent is unrecoverable,” Boychenko said during a news conference.

About 130,000 people remained trapped in the city, which continues to be pounded by Russian bombardments, he said. Approximately half a million people lived in the city on the coast of the Sea of Azov before the outbreak of the war.

“The bombings are incessant,” Boychenko said.

Partially destroyed building
Mariupol’s mayor says about 130,000 people remained trapped in the city, which continues to face Russian bombardment [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Images out of Bucha constitute ‘probable evidence of war crimes’: UK envoy

The killing of large numbers of civilians in Ukraine will be “front and centre” during Tuesday’s UNSC meeting, Britain’s UN ambassador has said.

Barbara Woodward said that “the images that we saw coming out of Bucha over the weekend were harrowing, appalling, probable evidence of war crimes and possibly a genocide”.

She said the UNSC will be briefed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo.

Russia to present ’empirical evidence’ over Bucha: Envoy

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s envoy to the UN, has said Russia will present “empirical evidence” to the UNSC that its forces have not been killing civilians in Ukraine and were not involved in events in Bucha.

“We have empirical evidence to support this,” Nebenzya said at a press conference. “We intend to submit them to the Security Council as soon as possible so that the international community is not misled by the false plot of Kyiv and its Western sponsors.”

Why Biden’s release of US oil reserves won’t end pain at the pump

When Biden announced that the US would release more than 180 million barrels of oil from its strategic petroleum reserve over the next six months, the US president hailed it as an historic move that would lower fuel prices in the US.

The price at the pump has surged amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has led the US and other nations to bar oil and gas imports from Moscow and driven concerns over global energy supplies with inventories low and new production capacity limited.

But while the Ukraine conflict pushes Biden and other world leaders to dip into their stockpiles, experts say the actual effect for consumers will be limited – and higher prices and more disruptions lie ahead.

Read more here.

UNSC to meet on Tuesday

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other UN officials have condemned reports of atrocities committed in Bucha, but they “haven’t gone as far as the United States in declaring Russia guilty of war crimes”, Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey said.

“They have said that there is enough grounds to investigate the possibility of war crimes,” Saloomey reported from UN headquarters in New York City.

“And that is already happening with the International Criminal Court. The Human Rights Council has also authorised a commission of inquiry,” she said, adding that the UNSC is scheduled to hold a meeting on the situation in Ukraine on Tuesday.

10 people killed in Mykolaiv: Ukraine official

​Oleksandr Senkevich, the head of the Ukrainian regional administration, has said that 10 people, including a child, were killed by shelling in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv.

“Over today, a total of 10 people have been killed during the shelling and 46 injured,” Senkevich said in a video posted on social media.

Russian forces ‘obviously responsible’ for atrocities in Bucha: Pentagon

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said that Russian forces are obviously responsible for the atrocities in Bucha.

“I think it’s fairly obvious, not just to us but to the world, that Russian forces are responsible for the atrocities in Bucha,” Kirby told a news briefing.

He also acknowledged that it was not yet clear exactly which units were operating in the area.

“Now exactly who – what units, whether they’re contractors or Chechens – I don’t think we’re able to say right now. But we’re certainly not refuting that these atrocities occurred and occurred at the hands of Russians.”

Ukrainian elderly woman
Ukrainian officials said more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated on Monday from the besieged port city of Mariupol [Chingis Kondarov/Reuters]

US lays out what it says are Russia’s revised war aims

Russia is revising its war aims and repositioning its forces to capture eastern and southern parts of Ukraine rather than pushing to control the entire country, Jake Sullivan has said.

The US national security adviser said Russia’s initial plans of swiftly capturing the capital, Kyiv, failed because Ukrainians have “held firm”.

“We assess Russia will focus on defeating Ukrainian forces in the broader Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, which encompasses significantly more territory than Russian proxies already controlled before the new invasion began in late February,” Sullivan said.

“Russia could then use any tactical successes it achieves to propagate a narrative of progress and mask or try to discount or downplay prior military failures.”

US approves potential sale of F-16 aircraft to Bulgaria

The US Department of Defense has said that it approved the potential sale of up to eight F-16 aircraft and related equipment to Bulgaria, in a deal valued at $1.673bn.

US officials said the agreement was not directly related to Russia’s month-long invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government had asked countries that have Russian-made MiG aircraft – including Bulgaria – to turn them over for use in the fight against Russian forces.

US and its allies mulling additional Russia sanctions: Official

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said further sanctions against Russian energy are on the table in talks with Washington’s European allies.

The US has already barred imports of Russian oil and gas, while several European nations are moving to ease their dependence on energy supplies from Moscow amid the war in Ukraine.

Sullivan also said the Biden administration would announce fresh military assistance for Ukraine in the coming days.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Monday, April 4 here.

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