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War in Ukraine, Day 43 | New sanctions against Russia, evacuations continue

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(Kramatorsk) Russia, accused of ‘war crimes’ in Ukraine, was the subject of an EU embargo on its coal on Thursday and new sanctions from the G7 and Washington, while Kyiv urged civilians to to flee the eastern regions, threatened by a Russian offensive.

What you need to know

  • The UN General Assembly suspended Russia from its seat on the UN Human Rights Council;
  • Discussions are still continuing between Russia and Ukraine, Kyiv asks Moscow to “reduce its degree of hostility”;
  • Ukraine urges civilians in the east to take their ‘last chance’ to flee
  • The Minister of Foreign Affairs is demanding arms from the NATO countries, it is “now”, or “it will be too late”, he said;
  • Moscow recognizes “significant losses” within its army, without quantifying them;
  • Russia has been subject to an EU embargo on its coal;
  • G7 countries announced new economic sanctions against Russia, including a ban on new investment in key sectors

The representatives of the Twenty-Seven have also decided to close European ports to Russian ships, as part of a fifth salvo of sanctions against Moscow, announced the French presidency of the Council of the EU.

The EU is also ready to release 500 million euros more to finance weapons for Ukraine, announced the President of the European Council Charles Michel.

This is the first time that the Europeans have hit the Russian energy sector, on which they are very dependent.

The EU imports 45% of its coal from Russia for a value of 4 billion euros per year. This embargo will come into force at the beginning of August.

This “very substantial” package provides for the ban on exports to Russia, in particular of high-tech goods, up to 10 billion euros, new sanctions against Russian banks, according to the same source.

For their part, the G7 countries have announced new economic sanctions against Russia, including a ban on all new investment in key sectors in response to “the continued escalation of the war” in Ukraine.


Photo Rodrigo Abd, Associated Press

These initiatives follow the wave of indignation following the discovery of dozens of dead people, wearing civilian clothes and for some with their hands tied behind their backs, in the areas from which the Russian army withdrew and in particular in the locality of Butcha, near Kyiv.

And through a vote in Congress, the United States formally revoked the trade status of Russia and Belarus on Thursday, paving the way for punitive tariffs.

These new sanctions come as the General Assembly of the United Nations, which brings together all the member countries and within which there is no right of veto, adopted during the day the suspension of Russia from the Human Rights Council Human Rights, the second in the history of the United Nations after the ousting of Libya in 2011.

US President Joe Biden, in a statement, “applauded” this vote, saying that “Russia’s lies do not hold up against the indisputable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine”.

The “indications of rape, torture, executions – with in some cases desecrated bodies – are an insult to humanity”, he added.

These initiatives follow the wave of indignation following the discovery of dozens of dead people, wearing civilian clothes and for some with their hands tied behind their backs, in the areas from which the Russian army withdrew and in particular in the locality of Butcha, near Kyiv.

Ukraine and its supporters accuse Russian troops who left northern Ukrainian territory and thus stopped seeking to take the capital, of being responsible for these “war crimes”.

Russia denies any abuse, denouncing a “Ukrainian provocation”. She called the vote “illegal”.

Twenty-six bodies extracted from the rubble

Twenty-six bodies have been extracted by Ukrainian rescue workers from the rubble of two bombed apartment buildings in Borodianka, northwest of Kyiv, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova announced on Thursday.

It is “the most destroyed city in the region” of the capital, she said on Facebook. Only the civilian population was targeted.”

In a video message Thursday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky assured that the situation in Borodianka is “much more horrible” than in Boutcha. “There are more victims”.

But “every crime will be solved and every executioner will be found,” he said. “I stress it once again: we need more sanctions, more courageous sanctions”.

Last chance

In Mariupol (southeast), a port city besieged and devastated by the Russian army since the end of February and where some 100,000 inhabitants are still hiding, the “new mayor” proclaimed by the pro-Russian forces announced Thursday that “about 5,000 people had died among the civilian population of this Ukrainian city.

“About 60 to 70% of the housing stock has been destroyed or partially destroyed,” added Konstantin Ivashchenko, appointed head of the city on Wednesday by Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk separatists.

The Ukrainian authorities have put forward much heavier tolls.


PHOTO FADEL SENNA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ukraine needs weapons from NATO countries “now” or “it will be too late”, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Thursday.

But it is eastern Ukraine which is now the main objective of the Russian forces, which have suffered “significant military losses”, recognized the Kremlin spokesman on Thursday, referring to “an immense tragedy”.

Fearing an offensive against these eastern regions, the Ukrainian authorities have again called on the civilian population to leave them.

“The next few days may be the last chance to leave. All the free towns in the Luhansk region are under enemy fire” and Russian forces are “cutting off all possible exit routes”, its governor, Serguiï Gaïdaï, warned on Facebook.

A new call concerning in particular the city of Severodonetsk, the most easterly held by Ukrainian forces, pounded by Russian troops and where AFP journalists saw civilians evacuated by buses on Thursday, while explosions sounded regularly at its periphery.

“It’s falling everywhere. It’s no longer possible, ”says Denis, a pale as a sheet forty-year-old, with an emaciated face, who would be considered to be in his sixties. “You can still find a little bread in the morning at the shop. Volunteers and the army give us food”.

“Look at the rocket impacts, the destroyed apartments around you,” a grandmother points with her chin, clutching her purse to her chest. “We’ve been living in the cellar for more than a month. I have no more gas, electricity or water”.

A “large number” of evacuees have already arrived in Dnipro, announced Thursday the mayor of this industrial city of one million inhabitants on the Dnieper, the river which marks the limit of the eastern regions of the country. He also urged them to “leave, for (those) who can”, in the regions even further west “because it is safer there”.

“Now” Weapons

And to prepare to counter the expected offensive in the Donbass, Kyiv is asking for help from the West.

The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs went to Brussels to request immediate deliveries of arms to his counterparts in the Atlantic Alliance.

“Either you help us now, and I’m talking days, not weeks, or your help will come too late. And a lot of people will die,” insisted Dmytro Kouleba after the meeting.

And to warn: “as we speak, the battle for Donbass is underway”. It will “remind you” of the “Second World War”, with “thousands of tanks, armored vehicles, planes, artillery”.

Alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured that “the allies are aware of the urgency of providing more support to Ukraine”. He spoke of “significant support”, considering “preferable not to be too specific about the armaments that will be provided”.

The diplomatic aspect of the crisis shows no signs of progress. Russia said on Thursday that Ukraine had backtracked on some of the proposals it made during talks in late March in Istanbul that Russia said it welcomed.

Kyiv immediately responded, calling on Moscow to “reduce its degree of hostility” in the negotiations. And Mr. Kouleba accused his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov of making himself an “accomplice in the crimes” committed by the Russian army by justifying them.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that she would travel to Kyiv on Friday to express her “unwavering support” for Ukraine in its “courageous fight” against the Russian invasion.

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