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Ukraine demands new sanctions on Russia over ‘massacre’ in Bucha

Click to play video: 'Devastation left in Ukraine as Russia’s troops withdraw from Kyiv'
Devastation left in Ukraine as Russia’s troops withdraw from Kyiv
WATCH ABOVE: Devastation left in Ukraine as Russia’s troops withdraw from Kyiv – Apr 2, 2022

Ukraine on Sunday demanded crippling new sanctions on Russia from major Western powers over a “massacre” in a town near Kyiv as anger grew in Western capitals and Germany said that those responsible for war crimes should pay.

Ukraine said on Saturday that its forces had retaken all areas around Kyiv. The mayor of Bucha, a liberated town 37 km (23 miles) northwest of the capital, said that 300 of its residents had been killed by the Russian army.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for international war crimes investigators to visit the area to collect evidence and said Kyiv believed the killing of civilians was deliberate.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that the West would impose a new package of sanctions on Russia over the killing of civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities, but he said that was not enough of a punishment.

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He said that hundreds of people had been killed in Bucha and other cities, including civilians who had been shot.

Russia’s defense ministry denied that Russian forces had killed civilians in Bucha, and said all photographs and footage showing dead bodies were “yet another provocation.” In a statement, it said all Russian military units had left the town on March 30 and requested that the U.N. Security Council convene on Monday to discuss this issue.

Russia has previously denied targeting civilians and has rejected allegations of war crimes in what it calls a “special military operation” aimed at demilitarizing and “denazifying” Ukraine. Ukraine says it was invaded without provocation.

Click to play video: 'Ukraine’s Zelenskyy alleges retreating Russian troops are laying booby traps'
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy alleges retreating Russian troops are laying booby traps

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described images of large numbers of dead Ukrainians in Bucha following Russia’s withdrawal as a “punch in the gut” in an interview with CNN.

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French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemned what he called the “massive abuses” committed by Russian forces and said Paris would work with Ukraine and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to put those responsible on trial.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted: “The images from Bucha are unbearable, Putin’s uninhibited violence is extinguishing innocent families and knows no boundaries.

Germany’s defense minister Christine Lambrecht said the European Union must discuss banning the import of Russian gas – a departure from Berlin’s prior resistance to the idea of an embargo on Russian energy imports.

Click to play video: 'Protecting Kyiv: Inside Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces'
Protecting Kyiv: Inside Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces

“Those responsible for these war crimes must be made accountable. We will tighten the sanctions against Russia and will assist Ukraine even more in defending itself.”

Kuleba also called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to visit Bucha and other towns around Kyiv as soon as possible to work with Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to “thoroughly collect all evidence of Russian war crimes” the ministry quoted him as saying.

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“We are still gathering and looking for bodies, but the number has already gone into the hundreds,” he added. “Dead bodies lie on the streets. They killed civilians while staying there and when they were leaving these villages and towns.”

On his Telegram channel, he wrote: “Bucha massacre was deliberate.”

Andriy Sybiha, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, called alongside Kuleba for a wave of new measures by the Group of Seven major Western economic powers: extending sanctions to all its banks, closing ports to its ships and imposing an embargo on all trade.

“The current sanctions are not having enough of an effect as the war is continuing,” he said.

Fighting in several areas

Russia has pulled back forces that had threatened Kyiv from the north, saying it intends to focus on eastern Ukraine.

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Fighting was reported on Sunday in several parts of Ukraine.

The governor of the eastern Donetsk region said shelling had continued throughout the night and day. Russian shelling killed seven people in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to the regional prosecutor’s office.

Missiles struck near the southern port of Odesa, with Russia saying it had destroyed an oil refinery used by the Ukrainian military. The Odesa city council said “critical infrastructure facilities” were hit.

Dmytro Lunin, governor of the central Poltava region, said the Kremenchug oil refinery, 350 km (220 miles) northeast of Odesa, had been destroyed in a separate rocket attack on Saturday.

Two blasts were heard in the Russian city of Belgorod near the border with Ukraine on Sunday, two witnesses told Reuters, days after Russian authorities accused Ukrainian forces of striking a fuel depot there.

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Ukraine evacuated 2,694 people from conflict zones in the southeastern port of Mariupol and the region of Luhansk on Sunday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. Ukrainian officials were in talks with Russia to allow several Red Cross buses to enter Mariupol, she added.

The Red Cross abandoned earlier attempts due to security concerns. Russia blamed the charity for the delays.

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Mariupol is Russia’s main target in Ukraine’s southeastern region of Donbas, and tens of thousands of civilians there have been trapped for weeks with scant access to food and water.

There was little sign of a breakthrough in efforts to negotiate an end to the war, although Russia’s chief negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said talks were due to resume on Monday via videoconference.

Medinsky said that while Ukraine was showing more realism by agreeing to be neutral, renouncing nuclear weapons, not joining a military bloc and refusing to host military bases, there had been no progress on other key Russia demands.

“I repeat again and again: Russia’s position on Crimea and Donbas remains UNCHANGED,” he said on Telegram.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has recognized declarations of independence by the self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine which rose up against Kyiv’s rule.

— Reporting by Natalia Zinets

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