Russia-Ukraine War (April 4): Moscow Warns of ‘Symmetrical’ Response to Western Countries’ Expulsion of Russian Diplomats

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
April 4, 2022 Updated: April 5, 2022

The latest on the RussiaUkraine crisis, April 4. Click here for updates from April 3.

Moscow Warns of ‘Symmetrical’ Response to Western Countries’ Expulsion of Russian Diplomats

Russia will respond proportionately to the expulsion of its diplomats from a number of Western countries, Russian ex-president and deputy head of security council Dmitry Medvedev said late on Monday.

“Everyone knows the answer: it will be symmetrical and destructive for bilateral relations,” Medvedev said in a posting on his Telegram channel.

“Who have they punished? First of all, themselves.”

On Monday, France said it would expel 35 Russian diplomats over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Germany declared “significant number” of Russian diplomats as undesirable,

“If this continues, it will be fitting, as I wrote back on 26th February – to slam shut the door on Western embassies,” Medvedev said. “It will be cheaper for everyone. And then we will end up just looking at each other in no other way than through gunsights.”

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Ukraine’s President to Address UN Security Council on War

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the U.N. Security Council for the first time Tuesday at a meeting that is certain to focus on what appear to be widespread deliberate killings of civilians by Russian troops.

The dead were discovered after the withdrawal of Russian forces from a town on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, and have sparked global outrage and vehement denials from the Russian government that it was responsible.

The United Kingdom, which holds the council presidency this month, announced late Monday that Zelenskyy would speak at the open meeting called for Tuesday to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Zelenskyy is to address the U.N.’s most powerful body virtually after it receives briefings from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, his political chief Rosemary DiCarlo, and U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, who is trying to arrange an immediate humanitarian cease-fire and met with senior Russian officials in Moscow on Monday and will shortly be heading to Ukraine.

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France and Germany to Expel ‘Numerous’ Russian Diplomats

The French foreign ministry announced Monday that France has decided to expel “numerous” Russian diplomats, saying their “activities were contrary to our security interests.”

The announcement came hours after Germany said it was expelling 40 diplomats and Lithuania said it expelled the Russian ambassador and will recall its envoy in Moscow. No number was immediately given for how many are being expelled by France.

German news agency dpa quoted German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser as saying that the diplomats being expelled are those “whom we attribute to the Russian intelligence services.”

Faeser says that “we won’t allow this criminal war of aggression to also be conducted as an information war in Germany.”

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US to Build Case for Russia War Crimes in ICC or Other Venue

President Joe Biden will consult allies to ensure Russia and President Vladimir Putin pay the price for war crimes being committed in Ukraine, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Sullivan said he had yet to see evidence that Russian atrocities had risen to the level of genocide. He said consultations might take place at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another venue.

The discovery of a mass grave and bodies shot at close range in Bucha, outside Kyiv, a town Ukrainian forces reclaimed from Russian troops, looked set to galvanize the United States and Europe into imposing additional sanctions against Moscow.

Sullivan said Russia’s permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council means any war crimes accountability could be blocked by Moscow there, he said.

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US Seeks to Remove Russia From UN Human Rights Council

The United States moved to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council as the State Department also announced it would collect evidence of war crimes that were allegedly committed in Ukraine.

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday that “European countries and other partners at the U.N., we are going to seek Russia’s suspension from the U.N. Human Rights Council” following accusations that Russian forces massacred Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, located near Kyiv, over the past weekend.

Russian officials have denied that its forces carried out mass executions, alleging that video footage and photos released by Ukrainian officials were staged to create a provocation. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday said that such claims need to be investigated first.

Details provided by Ukrainian officials “should be subject to serious skepticism,” Peskov said, according to state-run media. Russian military officials, he further claimed, discovered evidence of video manipulation in connection to the Bucha incient.

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Ukraine’s President Urges Russia to Negotiate

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says that Russia needs to move quickly to negotiate an agreement to end the war.

Speaking on a visit Monday to the town of Bucha outside Kyiv, Zelenskyy said evidence of alleged atrocities makes it hard to conduct talks with Russia.

“It’s very difficult to conduct negotiations when you see what they did here,” Zelenskyy said, claiming that in Bucha and other places “dead people have been found in barrels, basements, strangled, tortured.” He added that the Russian leadership “needs to think faster if it has what to think with.”

Zelenskyy added that “the longer the Russian Federation drags it out, the worse it will exacerbate its own situation and this war.” Zelenskyy reaffirmed his criticism of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s opposition to Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, saying that she and other Western leaders who resisted the move should come to Bucha to “see what the flirting with the Russian Federation leads to.”

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Russia to Resume Flights With 52 ‘Friendly’ Countries, PM Says

Russia plans to end restrictions on flights to and from 52 countries after April 9, part of its plans to reduce measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Monday.

Russia plans to resume flights to and from Argentina, South Africa, and other “friendly countries,” Mishustin said, meaning those that have not joined the latest wave of Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation” to demilitarise its neighbor.

Russia imposed broad travel restrictions at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, many of which remain in force, but has gradually expanded the list of countries deemed safe for air travel.

Other countries with which Russia will resume flights after April 9 include Algeria, China, Lebanon, Peru, and Pakistan, Russia’s coronavirus task force said.

Mishustin also said Russia would be lifting restrictions on travel across the land border between Russia and China.

Russia has closed its airspace to airlines from 36 countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, in response to Ukraine-related sanctions targeting its aviation sector.

Punitive measures imposed by Western powers have also forced Western firms to terminate leasing contracts with Russian airlines for over 500 aircraft.

The sanctions also prevent Russian airlines from buying aircraft parts or maintenance services from Europe or the United States, adding to the pressure on the world’s 11th largest aviation market from a ban on using North American and European airspace.

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5 Arab Foreign Ministers in Moscow for Talks

Five Arab foreign ministers have traveled to Moscow for talks with Russia’s top diplomat on the war in Ukraine.

The Arab League says the foreign ministers of Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, and Sudan will meet Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Ahemd Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, will also join the meeting.

The pan-Arab organization says the ministers will then travel to Poland on Tuesday for talks with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

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Russia Starts Own Inquiry Into Ukraine Deaths

A Russian law enforcement agency says it has launched its own investigation into allegations that Ukrainian civilians were massacred in suburbs of Kyiv which were held by Russian troops, focusing on what it calls “false information” about Russian forces.

The Investigative Committee claims Ukrainian authorities made the allegations “with the aim of discrediting Russian troops” and that those involved should be investigated over possible breaches of a new Russian law banning what the government deems to be false information about its forces.

Russian law enforcement has launched several investigations since Russian troops entered Ukraine, typically into incidents such as the shelling of areas held by Russia-backed separatists.

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Russia May Collect $321 Billion Windfall If Oil and Gas Keep Following

Russia’s energy revenue is expected to skyrocket this year if trading partners continue purchases of oil and gas from the sanction-hit country.

Russia will get an estimated $321 billion in energy exports in 2022, marking a surge of more than a third compared to last year, according to a Bloomberg analysis published Friday.

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Russian Ambassadors Expelled

Lithuania and Latvia have announced the decision to downgrade their diplomatic relations with Russia, ordering Moscow’s ambassadors to leave the two Baltic states.

Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, announced on Monday that Lithuania’s diplomatic representative would also be recalled from Moscow in the coming days.

Vilnius also decided to shut down the Russian consulate in the city of Klaipeda.

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Russia Imposes Visa Restrictions on Citizens of ‘Unfriendly Countries’

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday introducing visa restrictions for citizens of countries that Moscow deems “unfriendly” in response to sanctions over Ukraine.

The decree, which comes into force on Monday, suspends Russia’s simplified visa issuance regime with some European Union countries as well as Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, and Iceland.

It also ordered the Russian foreign ministry and other bodies to decide on introducing personal entry restrictions on “foreign citizens and stateless people who commit unfriendly actions against Russia, its citizens or its legal entities.”

Last month the Russian government approved a list of unfriendly countries including United States, Canada, Britain, EU states and Ukraine, among others.

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US Urges Russia’s Ouster From UN Rights Body

The United States plans to seek a suspension of Russia from its seat on the U.N.’s top human rights body in the wake of rising allegations that Russian forces may have committed war crimes in Ukraine, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday.

According to a statement from her office, Thomas-Greenfield made the call for Russia to be stripped of its seat in the Human Rights Council in the wake of reports over the weekend about violence against civilians in the town of Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, after Russian forces pulled out.

Any decision to suspend Russia would require a decision by the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Russia and the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—Britain, China, France, and the United States—all currently have seats on the 47-member rights council, which is based in Geneva. The United States rejoined the council this year.

In New York, General Assembly spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said on Monday that no request for a meeting on the issue has been received yet.

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Russia Denies Growing Charges of War Crimes, Orders Probe of Ukrainian ‘Provocation’ Over Civilian Deaths in Bucha

Russia’s top diplomat has dismissed Ukraine’s accusations that Russian troops committed atrocities against its civilians as a staged provocation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the start of his talks Monday with U.N. Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths that Moscow sees the Ukrainian claim of a massacre of civilians in Bucha outside Kyiv as “a provocation that posed a direct threat to global peace and security.”

Lavrov noted that Russia has called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council but the UK that currently chairs it refused to convene it. He vowed to press the demand for holding the meeting.

Lavrov charged that the mayor of Bucha made no mention of atrocities against civilians a day after Russian troops left Bucha on Wednesday, but two days later scores of bodies were photographed scattered in the streets in what the Russian minister described as a “stage-managed anti-Russian provocation.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that the Ukrainian claims that Russian troops had killed hundreds of civilians outside Kyiv can’t be trusted, adding that “we categorically reject the accusations.” Peskov’s comment in a conference call with reporters followed the Russian Defense Ministry’s statement accusing the Ukrainian authorities of stage-managing what it described as a “provocation” to smear Russia.

Ukrainian authorities have said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the Ukrainian capital after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops, many with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds, and signs of torture. International leaders have condemned the reported atrocities and called for tougher sanctions against Moscow.

Peskov said that photo and video materials from the area reflected unspecified “manipulations” and urged international leaders to carefully analyze the facts and hear the Russian arguments before rushing to blame Moscow.

Peskov also said that Russia will keep pushing for the meeting of the United Nations Security Council, noting that Russia wants the issue to be discussed at the highest level.

Russia’s chief investigator on Monday also ordered an official examination of what he called a Ukrainian “provocation” after Kyiv accused the Russian military of massacring civilians in the town of Bucha.

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Putin Hails Allies on Election Wins

Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated the Moscow-friendly leaders of Hungary and Serbia on winning elections.

In a letter sent Monday to Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban whose right-wing Fidesz party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s vote, Putin said that “despite the difficult international situation, the further development of bilateral partnership fully conforms to the interests of peoples of Russia and Hungary,” according to the Kremlin.

Putin also congratulated Serbian President Alexandar Vucic on his reelection Sunday, saying that the outcome of the vote confirms a “broad public support” for his independent foreign policies. The Russian leader voiced hope that Vucic’s activities will help further strengthen the “strategic partnership” between Russia and Serbia.

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Another Major Global Breadbasket May Halt Grain Exports

Kazakhstan is considering the introduction of temporary restrictions on the export of grain and flour to protect its domestic food market, Agriculture Minister Yerbol Karashukeev said on Monday, without specifying any dates. Kazakhstan is one of the top 10 grain exporters in the world, supplying over 70 countries.

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Ukraine to Probe Alleged Russian Atrocities

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the country will conduct a probe into alleged atrocities against civilians by Russian troops involving international investigators.

Zelenskyy claimed in an address that “the world has seen many war crimes,” adding that “the time has come to make the war crimes committed by Russian troops the last such evil on Earth.” He said that a special justice mechanism will be created to investigate the Russian atrocities with the participation of international prosecutors and judges.

Ukrainian authorities have claimed that the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in areas outside the Ukrainian capital after last week’s withdrawal of Russian troops.

Russia has rejected the accusations of killing civilians as a “provocation” by Ukrainian authorities and initiated a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the issue.

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Ukrainian Authorities Claim More Civilian Casualties in Kharkiv

Ukrainian authorities are reporting more civilian casualties from the Russian barrage.

At least seven people were killed and 34, including three children, were wounded in a Russian rocket attack on Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv late Sunday, according to the regional prosecutor’s office. It claimed that 10 buildings were destroyed.

In the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv, regional Gov. Vitaliy Kim claimed at least one resident was killed and 14 others were wounded by Russian shelling late Sunday. Local authorities also reported more Russian strikes on Mykolaiv early Monday, but there was no immediate word of casualties.

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UK Says Russian Forces Continue to Refocus Their Offensive Into the Donbass Region

Britain’s Defense Ministry says Russia is continuing to build up both its soldiers and mercenaries in eastern Ukraine.

“Russian forces are continuing to consolidate and reorganize as they refocus their offensive into the Donbas region in the east of Ukraine,” the ministry said in an intelligence update posted on social media Monday.

It claims Russian troops are being moved into the area, along with mercenaries from the Wagner private military group.

Overnight, the UK claimed Russia was still trying to take the southern port city of Mariupol, which has seen weeks of intense fighting.

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European Leaders Accuse Russia of War Crimes

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez claimed Russian troops’ alleged atrocities against civilians in Ukraine should be judged in an international court and may amount to genocide.

Sánchez said Monday: “I hope that everything possible can be done so that those behind these war crimes don’t go unpunished, and that they can appear before the courts, in this case the International Criminal Court, to answer these alleged cases of crimes against humanity, war crimes and, why not say it, of genocide, too.”

Poland’s prime minister accused Russia of being a “totalitarian fascist” state that has carried out atrocities against civilians in Ukraine.

Mateusz Morawiecki called Monday for an international commission to be formed to investigate the evidence emerging that Russian soldiers carried out executions of Ukrainian civilians.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “The Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area. They are subject to the international law of occupation.”

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned “with utmost strength” the reported torture and killings of Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops in an interview Monday on France-Inter radio.

“There is clear evidence of war crimes. It was the Russian army that was in Bucha,” Macron claimed. “We have told Ukrainian authorities that we were at their disposal to help with the investigation they’re carrying out. International justice must prevail. Those who committed these crimes will have to answer for them.”

Macron joined leaders from around the world who are calling for stronger sanctions in response to the reports.

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Germany Says West to Agree More Sanctions on Russia After Bucha Accusations

Germany said on Sunday that the West would agree to impose more sanctions on Russia in the coming days after Ukraine accused Russian forces of war crimes near Kyiv, ratcheting up the already vast economic pressure on Russia over its invasion.

Russia on Sunday denied its forces were responsible for the deaths of civilians in the town of Bucha and said Ukraine had staged a performance for the Western media.

Reuters reporters said they saw corpses strewn across the town. One appeared to have his hands bound with white cloth, and to have been shot in the mouth. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of carrying out a genocide.

The West warned of more sanctions.

“Putin and his supporters will feel the consequences” of their actions, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement to reporters.

German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said the European Union should talk about ending Russian gas imports.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has so far resisted calls to impose an embargo on energy imports from Russia, saying its economy and that of other European countries are too dependent on them. Russia supplies 40 percent of Europe’s gas needs.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the events in Bucha were “unleashing a wave of indignation that will lead to new sanctions” and did not exclude “that in the next few hours there could be a debate on the issue of imports of hydrocarbons from Russia,” he told a program on Italy’s Rai 3 channel, adding Italy would not veto a fifth package of sanctions.

The Kremlin says the West’s sanctions—the most burdensome in modern history—amount to a declaration of economic war and that Moscow will now look eastwards to partners such as China and India.

Still, cutting off Russian gas—or more of Russia’s natural resources—would wipe out growth in Europe’s biggest economies, send energy prices to records, and propel an inflationary shockwave through the global economy.

“The world is much bigger than Europe—and in fact Russia is much bigger than Europe—so sooner or later we will have a dialogue no matter what people across the ocean want,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Channel One state television.

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Germany Is the Main Roadblock for Tougher Russian Sanctions, Poland’s Prime Minister Says

Germany is the main roadblock to imposing tougher sanctions on Russia, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki claimed on Monday during a news conference, adding that Hungary was not blocking them.

His comment comes after Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a national election on Sunday after facing criticism over an insufficiently tough stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We have to see that, regardless of how we approach Hungary, this is the fourth such win and we have to respect democratic elections … it’s Germany that is the main roadblock on sanctions. Hungary is for the sanctions,” Morawiecki said.

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Greek Foreign Minister Leads Aid Mission to Odesa, Reopens Consulate

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias arrived in Odesa on Sunday at the head of a humanitarian aid mission into the southern port city of Ukraine, the foreign ministry said.

The humanitarian aid was handed to the city’s municipal authorities.

Dendias, 62, also aims to set up a continuous mechanism of distributing aid from Greece and to reopen the country’s consulate in the city.

“The reopening of [Greece’s] consulate will help distribute humanitarian aid and set up corridors for the Greek ethnic community to leave from any areas of Ukraine, if needed, via Odesa,” the minister said after upon his arrival in Odesa, according to a statement from the Greek foreign ministry.

Missiles struck Odesa in the early hours of Sunday, the city council said in an online post.

Dendias said last month he planned to lead a humanitarian aid mission to the besieged city of Mariupol in Ukraine, where thousands of ethnic Greeks live, but intense fighting there meant the destination was subsequently changed to Odesa.

At least 10 ethnic Greeks have been killed and several have been wounded since Russia started attacking Mariupol. More than 150 Greek citizens, vessel crews, and ethnic Greeks have been evacuated from the region, according to the Greek government.

Ukraine’s troops have retaken more than 30 towns and villages around Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday, claiming complete control of the capital region for the first time since Russia launched its invasion.

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Latvia May Agree to Pay for Russian Gas in Rubles

Latvia’s main gas operator says it won’t rule out paying for Russian natural gas in rubles, revealing that the new settlement method announced by Moscow is being evaluated from a legal and business perspective.

“According to the first impression, the settlement procedure in Russian rubles does not formally violate the sanctions regime and is possible,” Latvijas Gaze said in a statement.

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Japan Condemns Attacks on Ukraine Civilians

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Monday that he strongly condemned the reported attacks on civilians in Ukrainian towns on the outskirts of Kyiv “as violation to international law.”

European leaders have already condemned the reported attacks, responding to images of bodies in the streets, including some with their hands tied behind their backs.

Kishida said “Japan will firmly carry out what it should do” while cooperating with the international society in possible further sanctions against Russia.

“We must strongly condemn human rights problems and actions that violate international law,” Kishida added.

Japan has imposed a series of sanctions against Russia in line with the United States and other Western nations.

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Ukrainian Military Says Some Towns in Chernihiv Region Retaken

The Ukrainian military said that its forces have retaken some towns in the Chernihiv region and that humanitarian aid is being delivered.

The news agency RBK Ukraina said the road between Chernihiv and the capital of Kyiv is to reopen to some traffic later Monday.

Chernihiv is a city 80 miles north of Kyiv and it had been cut off from shipments of food and other supplies for weeks. The mayor said Sunday that relentless Russian shelling had destroyed 70 percent of the city.

Russian forces also withdrew from the Sumy region, in Ukraine’s northeast, local administrator Dmitry Zhivitsky said in a video message carried by Ukrainian news agencies Sunday. The troops had occupied the area for nearly a month.

In other areas recently retaken from Russian troops, Ukrainian officials said they have recovered hundreds of slain civilians in the past few days. Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said the bodies of 410 civilians have been recovered from Kyiv-area towns.

The Epoch Times is unable to independently verify the reports.

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Ukraine’s Leader Asks for Help in Grammys Video

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appeared in a video at the Grammy Awards asking for support in telling the story of Ukraine’s invasion by Russia.

During the message that aired on the show Sunday night, he likened the attack to a deadly silence threatening to extinguish the dreams and lives of the Ukrainian people, including children.

Zelenskyy told the audience: “Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about the war on your social networks, on TV, support us in any way you can, but not silence. And then peace will come to all our cities.”

Following Zelenskyy’s message, John Legend performed his song “Free” with Ukrainian musicians Siuzanna Iglidan and Mika Newton and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk as images from the war were shown on screens behind them.

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Ukraine: 410 Civilian Bodies Found Near Kyiv

Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said the bodies of 410 civilians have been removed from Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian troops.

Iryna Venediktova said on Facebook that the bodies were recovered Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. She said 140 of them have undergone examination by prosecutors and other specialists.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the mayor of the village of Motyzhyn in the Kyiv region was murdered while being held by Russian forces. Vereshchuk added that there are 11 mayors and community heads in Russian captivity across Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has rejected the claims of atrocities against civilians in Bucha and other suburbs of Kyiv.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.