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AS IT HAPPENED

As it happened: Ukraine prepares for Russian attack reminiscent of 'World War II' on Donbas

Here are all the latest developments in the war in Ukraine today.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 7th 2022, 6:00 PM

HERE ARE THE latest developments in the war in Ukraine today.

  • Russia has been suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, after 93 countries voted in favour of the suspension. Ukraine said it was “grateful”. 
  • Residents in the east of Ukraine were warned that now could be their last chance to flee ahead of an expected assault that “will remind you of the Second World War“.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia was now massing forces in a bid to realise its “ill ambitions” in the eastern Donbas region.
  • Russian troops have suffered “significant losses” in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that it was “a huge tragedy for us”.
  • Russian troops executed civilians in apparent war crimes, according to Amnesty International. Meanwhile, Der Spiegel reported that the murder of civilians in Bucha was reportedly discussed on intercepted Russian radio traffic.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is travel to Kyiv tomorrow.
  • The European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for additional sanctions on Russia, including a full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas.
  • The US and UK announced new sanctions against Russia yesterday, including on Russian banks and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two daughters.
  • US President Joe Biden said that there is “nothing less happening than major war crimes” in Ukraine at Russia’s hands.
  • Yesterday, a joint sitting of the Dáil and Seanad gave a standing ovation to an address from Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Good morning all. Lauren Boland here – let’s look at what’s happening in the war in Ukraine today: 

  • Kyiv has warned residents in the east to get out “now” ahead of a feared assault
  • The US and UK announced new sanctions against Russia yesterday, including on Russian banks and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two daughters
  • US President Joe Biden said that there is “nothing less happening than major war crimes” in Ukraine at Russia’s hands
  • Yesterday, a joint sitting of the Dáil and Seanad gave a standing ovation to an address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

The US and UK announced new sanctions against Russia yesterday that target Russian banks and Putin’s two daughters.

Britain sanctioned two banks and pledged to eliminate all Russian oil and gas imports by the end of this year, while the US sanctioned Russia’s top banks and Putin’s daughters.

US President Joe Biden said there is “nothing less happening than major war crimes” in Ukraine as evidence of brutal attacks mounts. 

The American sanctions targeted Putin’s adult daughters Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, as well as the wife and daughter of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and members of Russia’s Security Council.

They put “full blocking” sanctions on Russia’s largest public and private financial institutions, Sberbank and Alfa Bank, and said all new US investment in Russia was now prohibited.

The UK froze the overseas assets of both Sberbank and Credit Bank of Moscow.

It’s likely the EU will also implement a fifth round of sanctions – one that will cut off off Russian coal imports.

President of the European Council Charles Michel said that “sooner or later”, it must impose oil and gas sanctions too.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is among EU leaders who has called for further sanctions against Russia following the killings in Bucha.

Speaking to the Oireachtas yesterday over video, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he had no time for “indecisiveness” from European countries dependent on Russian energy.

The latest round of sanctions follow the discovery of hundreds of deceased civilians in areas around Kyiv, including the town of Bucha, after Russian troops pulled out, though the Kremlin denies responsibility.

The Russian withdrawal from areas around Kyiv and the north is part of a shift towards Ukraine’s southeast.

It’s understood Russia wants to create a land bridge between occupied Crimea and Moscow-backed separatist regions in Donbas.

Ukraine Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has warned residents in the eastern Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions to leave immediately amid fears of Russian attacks.

“It has to be done now because later people will be under fire and face the threat of death,” she wrote on Telegram.

Pictured: A Ukrainian serviceman walking amid destroyed Russian tanks in Bucha in Ukraine yesterday.

 

PA-662592281 Felipe Dana / PA Images Felipe Dana / PA Images / PA Images

6,883 explosive devices have been found and neutralised in the Kyiv Oblast province (which does not include the city of Kyiv itself), the Kyiv Independent reports.

Ukraine has called again on other countries to increase the supply of weapons to help the country resist the Russian invasion.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said the UK “stepping up” its supply of arms, while Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg acknowledged that Ukraine urgently needs more weapons.

Stoltenberg said he is “certain that we will address the need” for more air defence systems, anti-tank missiles and “heavier weapons”.

The Czech Republic has reportedly sent Soviet-era tanks and personnel carriers to Ukraine.

The Times suggested the UK is also drawing up plans to supply armoured vehicles to help resist Russian forces.

The French government has summoned the Russian ambassador to Paris over claims from the embassy that Ukraine staged civilians’ deaths.

The Russian embassy in France posted a photo on Twitter claiming to show a “film set” by Ukrainians staging civilian killings in Bucha.

“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 tweeted.

Ukraine is accusing Hungary of appeasing Russian aggression following a telephone call between the Hungarian and Russian leaders.

The country says its neighbour is appeasing Russia and disrupting EU unity.

“Apparently, after the elections, Budapest moved on to the next step — helping Putin continue his aggression against Ukraine,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The statement continued by accusing Hungary of “destroying unity in the EU”.

“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.

“Proposals to hold peace talks between Ukraine and Russia in Budapest look cynical,” Kyiv’s statement said.

“If Hungary really wants to help end the war, here’s how to do it: stop destroying unity in the EU, support new anti-Russian sanctions, provide military assistance to Ukraine, and not create additional sources of funding for Russia’s military machine,” the statement said.

It said that Hungary had been reluctant to acknowledge “Russia’s undeniable responsibility” for “atrocities,” and that this could “strengthen Russia’s sense of impunity and encourage it to commit new atrocities against Ukrainians”.

Orban had previously had one of the closest relationships to Putin of any EU leader.

Putin congratulated Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban after his party won a fourth term in general elections last week.

The two leaders spoke again Wednesday and Orban told Putin that would Hungary would be prepared to pay Russia in rubles for gas imports.

“We believe this statement of readiness to pay for Russian gas in rubles is an unfriendly position towards our state. Such statements also contradict the consolidated position of the European Union,” the Ukraine foreign ministry said.

Here are the humanitarian corridors agreed on by Ukraine and Russia today:

Another Ukrainian politician has warned people in the east of the country to escape ahead of Russian attacks.

Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday official has told residents who are still there that time is running out to flee mounting Russian attacks, saying that all villages in the region were at risk.

“These few days may be the last chance to leave,” Gaiday wrote on Facebook.

He cautioned that Russian forces are”trying to cut off all possible ways of taking people out”.

In Poland, deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz “strongly opposes” other countries imposing any quotas on the intake of refugees from Ukraine.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, the minister said: “These are our neighbours. Ukrainian friends are very much welcome to stay in Poland. People are free people.”

“If they want to go to the Great Britain and the Great Britain is ready to host them – we have absolutely nothing against them. But we are strongly opposing the policy of quotas or forcing people to live in a country.”

Back in Lugansk, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said that “all cities of the Lugansk region are under enemy fire”.

“One person was killed as a result of shelling this morning in Kreminna,” he said. Kreminna is a town in the region with a population of around 20,000 people.

“Do not wait to evacuate,” he said.

“The enemy is trying to cut off all possible ways of getting people out.”

Expulsion

Austria has expelled four Russian diplomats from the country, joining a growing list of other EU countries that have ordered departures in the last week.

Three of the diplomats work at Russia’s embassy in Vienna, while a fourth is based at a Russian consulate in Salzburg.

After addressing TDs and senators in the Dáil yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy video-ed in to Greece’s parliament this morning.

He asked Greece to use its power as an EU state to help rescue the remaining population of Mariupol, which Russia has struck heavily.

“Please use your influence as EU members to better organise whatever rescue can be carried out in Mariupol,” Zelenskyy told the session.

“We must save whoever we can,” he said, adding that some 100,000 people were still left around the devastated city.

 

russia-ukraine-war AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

Zelenskyy said that Mariupol and Odessa “need immediate assistance” and called for stronger bans on Russian banks and tankers.

“Russian banks must not be able to make money on the global credit system, we must shut the door, not just to some of them,” he said.

“For as long as this terrible war continues, no [ship] of Russian registry or interests can be allowed to access European ports… no acceptance of Russian tankers.”

Earlier today, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Greece would call on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe war crimes in Mariupol.

“Greece has a specific, special interest for Mariupol because of the existence of a 100,000 and more Greek community in Mariupol,” Dendias said as he arrived for the second day of a NATO meeting in Brussels.

G7 calls for Russia's suspension from UN Human Rights Council

This just in: The G7 countries have said it is “time to suspend” Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

The G7 countries have issued a lengthy statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calling for it to be suspended from the UN Human Rights Council – here are some extracts:

We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, 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.

Haunting images of civilian deaths, victims of torture, and apparent executions, as well as reports of sexual violence and destruction of civilian infrastructure show the true face of Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine and its people. The massacres in the town of Bucha and other Ukrainian towns will be inscribed in the list of atrocities and severe violations of international law, including international humanitarian law and human rights, committed by the aggressor on Ukrainian soil.

We underscore that those responsible for these heinous acts and atrocities, including any attacks targeting civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure, will be held accountable and prosecuted… We will continue to promote accountability for all those complicit in Moscow’s war of choice, including the Lukashenka regime in Belarus. We are convinced that now is the time to suspend Russian membership of the Human Rights Council.

Russia must immediately comply with the legally binding order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February 2022 in the territory of Ukraine. Further, we urge Russia to withdraw completely its military forces and equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

That’s it from me for now  – my colleague Céimin Burke is here to take you through the next developments.

The UK’s defence ministry has shared its latest update on Russian attacks and troop locations in Ukraine.

Russian troops executed and raped civilians in apparent war crimes, according to new research carried out by Amnesty International.

Witnesses from villages and towns close to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv reported deliberate killings, unlawful violence, and widespread intimidation by Russian forces against unarmed civilians across the region.

You can read a full report on Amnesty’s findings here.

Kremlin responds to sanctions on Putin’s daughters

The Kremlin says it is bewildered by the US decision to impose sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s daughters, according to Reuters.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the move was “difficult to understand and explain”.

“Of course we consider these sanctions in themselves to be the extension of an absolutely rabid position on the imposition of restrictions. In any case, the ongoing line on imposing restrictions against family members speaks for itself,” Peskov told reporters.

The US yesterday announced fresh sanctions targeting the Russian president’s two adult daughters, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, as well as Russia’s biggest public and private banks.

Bucha murders discussed on intercepted Russian radio traffic

German news magazine Der Spiegel is reporting that  Germany’s foreign intelligence service (the Bundesnachrichtendienst) intercepted Russian military radio traffic in which the murder of civilians in Bucha was discussed.

Some of the intercepted radio traffic can apparently be directly linked to dead bodies that have been photographed in the Ukrainian town.

The US Senate is to vote today on ending normal trade relations with Russia and banning the importation of its oil.

Both bills have languished in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said: “It’s a big, big deal that we are finally getting them done.

“I wish this could have happened sooner, but after weeks of talks with the other side, it’s important that we have found a path forward.”

Zelenskyy addresses Greek parliament

After addressing the joint houses of the Oireachtas yesterday Volodymyr Zelenskyy has continued his virtual world tour of parliaments.

Today the Ukrainian President urged Greek lawmakers to use its clout in the EU to rescue the remaining population of “martyred” Mariupol.

“Please use your influence as EU members to better organise whatever rescue can be carried out in Mariupol,” Zelensky told a special session of the Greek parliament, according to the official translation.

Mariupol, located in a strategic southeastern spot between Russia-occupied Crimea and pro-Russian separatist regions in Ukraine’s east, has been battered by Russian assaults since the invasion began.

“We must save whoever we can,” Zelensky said, adding that some 100,000 people were still left around the devastated port city.

“Mariupol and Odessa need immediate assistance,” he said, referring to the two Ukrainian cities that have had large ethnic Greek populations for centuries.

Greek ministers and MPs gave Zelensky a standing ovation at the close of his speech.

However, the Greek communists and a small nationalist party boycotted the event.

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.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko wants Belarus, Russia’s key ally, to be included in peace talks aimed at ending the war in Ukraine.

He complained that Minsk is not a participant in rounds of peace talks between delegations from Kyiv and Moscow, which have been held in Belarus and Istanbul.

 

Interestingly, Lukashekno repeatedly used the word “war” today at a meeting with security officials – a term that its ally Russia has insisted does not apply to its actions in Ukraine.

Russia refers to a “special military operation” in Ukraine and the use of words such as “war” or “invasion” in the country can incur heavy penalties.

Lukashenko said that Belarus is “working on the basis that this war is just over the fence from our country and it affects the situation in our country in the most serious way”.

“Therefore there should not be any separate agreements behind Belarus’s back,” he said.

“If you dragged us into this — primarily Western countries — then Belarus’s position naturally should be heard at talks.”

Belarus has allowed Russian troops to use the country bordering Ukraine as a rear base and has hosted three rounds of peace talks close to the border with Ukraine.

Lukashenko complained that last month’s talks in Istanbul were the result of “pressure from the west on Ukraine, not to go to Belarus at any cost” but that Belarus was not insisting on talks being held on its territory.

“Let them hold talks there. The main thing is for there to be a result. Because, I stress again, war causes great harm to Belarus.”

MEPs call for full embargo on Russian energy sources

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for additional sanctions on Russia, including an immediate and full embargo on Russian imports of oil, coal, nuclear fuel and gas.

The resolution passed with 513 votes in favour, 22 against, and 19 abstentions.

MEPs called for stronger, more punitive sanctions and said they should be accompanied by a plan to secure the security of the EU’s energy supply and a strategy for how to roll back sanctions if Russia takes steps towards peace.

The resolution also calls for:

  • all Russian banks to tobe excluded from the SWIFT system,
  • all vessels connected to Russia to be banned from entering EU territorial waters and docking at EU ports,
  • and for road freight transport from and to Russia and Belarus to be prohibited.

Most of Ireland’s MEPs voted in favour of the resolution.

Independent Mick Wallace voted against the resolution, while his colleague Clare Daly’s name does not appear on the voting record.

Daly made a speech in the European Parliament yesterday where she criticised the proposed sanctions.

“The EU, instead of promoting peace and acting in the interests of the people of Europe, Ukrainians, the EU citizens and, yes, the Russian citizens too, has become a tool of NATO and the military industrial complex,” Daly said.

“What is needed is an end to the conflict, an end to militarism, a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement,” she said. 

“How is not selling Kerrygold butter to Russia going to save any Ukrainian lives? How is buying filthy fracked US gas going to stop the war?” she said, adding that she believed the sanctions would not work.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has said that investigators will probe the civilian deaths uncovered in towns after Russian troops withdrew.

During a visit to Bucha, Griffiths said that “the world is already deeply shocked” and that “the next step is conducting investigations”.

He was accompanied by Amin Awad, the UN’s coordinator on the Ukraine crisis, for a three-hour visit that included a stop at the site of a mass grave that Ukrainians had dug near a church.

His trip came a day after he visited Moscow, where he met with officials to discuss the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, more than a month into the Russian invasion.

Evidence of civilian killings in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv — which Ukraine has blamed on Russian troops, allegations denied by Moscow — have shocked the world and triggered calls for new sanctions on Russia.

Hello, Gráinne Ní Aodha here taking over the Liveblog.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said that his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov was party to “crimes” executed by Moscow’s forces in Ukraine, saying the senior Russian diplomat seeks to justify them.

“The fact that he justifies the bombing of a hospital in Mariupol and war crimes committed in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities and villages of Ukraine and calls them fake, makes him an accomplice to these crimes,” Kuleba said.

The story of the woman in this photo, which has been widely shared in recent days. 

A pro-Russian separatist official in eastern Ukraine it was impossible to say how long it could take Moscow’s forces to fully seize the besieged city of Mariupol.

Eduard Basurin, a senior official in the self-proclaimed breakaway stronghold of Donetsk, has described Mariupol’s industrial zone as a “city within a city.”

“Several floors were built underground during the Soviet Union. It is impossible to bomb from above, you need to do a cleanup operation underground,” Basurin told Russian state television.

“This will take time too. They have been preparing for this; they know this territory better than us.”

Basurin said that separatist forces should aim to blockade the Ukrainian army in the industrial area and “then wait for them to give themselves up.”

Russia has been suspended from the UN Human Rights Council

The UN General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council as punishment for the invasion of Ukraine.

Of the 193 members of the assembly, 93 voted in favor of suspension while 24 voted against and 58 abstained, suggesting weakening international unity against Russia.

It was the second ever suspension of a country from the council.

Libya was the first, in 2011.

Ursula von der Leyen is travel to Kyiv tomorrow to show Europe’s “unwavering support” for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, she said.

“The Ukrainian people deserve our solidarity. That’s why I will travel to Kyiv tomorrow,” she told reporters during a visit to Stockholm.

“I want to send a very strong message of unwavering support to the Ukrainian people and their brave fight for our common values”.

Russian troops have suffered “significant losses” in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, while rejecting allegations of a massacre in the town of Bucha as “a well-staged insinuation”.

In an interview with Britain’s Sky News, he said the military casualties were “a huge tragedy for us” but did not specify a toll.

Russia in late March said it had lost 1,351 soldiers with another 3,825 wounded.

Contains additional reporting by AFP and Press Association

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