Russia-Ukraine War (April 5): US, Allies to Ban Investments in Russia, Sanction Banks on Wednesday

Russia-Ukraine War (April 5): US, Allies to Ban Investments in Russia, Sanction Banks on Wednesday
President Joe Biden looks on as he attends a North Atlantic Council meeting during an extraordinary summit at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 24, 2022. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 5. Click here for updates from April 4.

US, Allies to Ban Investments in Russia, Sanction Banks on Wednesday

The United States and its allies will on Wednesday impose new sanctions on Russian banks and officials and ban new investment in Russia, the White House said, after officials in Washington and Kyiv accused Moscow of committing war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

The sanctions will increase curbs on financial institutions and state-owned enterprises in Russia and target Russian government officials and their families, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.

"Tomorrow, what we're going to announce ... in coordination with the G-7 and EU, (is) an additional sweeping package of sanctions measures that will impose costs on Russia and send it further down the road of economic, financial, and technological isolation," Psaki said, noting that the G-7 and EU comprised around 50 percent of the global economy.

The measures will "degrade key instruments of Russian state power, impose acute and immediate economic harm on Russia, and hold accountable the Russian kleptocracy that funds and supports (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's war," she said.

She declined to comment on reports that the sanctions would target the daughters of Putin.


US Defense Chief Defends Ukraine Response

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin defended America's response to the war in Ukraine on Tuesday during a heated exchange with a Republican lawmaker who accused the Pentagon of over-estimating Russia's military capability.

"Has it occurred to you that Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we've done? And our allies have done? Have you ever even thought about that?" Austin asked rhetorically to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee. Austin and other U.S. officials say U.S. support to Ukrainian forces, along with Ukraine's strong will to fight, has thwarted Russia's plans for a swift victory in its now more than month-long invasion.


US Imposes Sanctions on Russian Darknet Market and Crypto Exchange

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Tuesday on a prominent Russia-based darknet market site and a cryptocurrency exchange that it said operates primarily out of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The sanctions against Hydra and currency exchange Garantex, published on the Treasury Department's website, "send a message today to criminals that you cannot hide on the darknet or their forums," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.

According to blockchain researchers, approximately 86 percent of illicit bitcoin received directly by Russian crypto exchanges in 2019 came from Hydra, which the Treasury Department described as the world's "largest and most prominent darknet market."

The new sanctions prohibit U.S. persons from making or receiving "any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services" to Hydra or Garantex, the Treasury said.

The department said the sanctions, which prohibit U.S. transactions with Hydra and Garantex and seek to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction, is part of an international effort to disrupt proliferation of malicious cybercrime services, drugs and other illegal offerings, including ransomware activity, that emanate from Russia.


Zelenskyy Demands Russia Get Expelled From UN Security Council

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday told the U.N. Security Council that Russia should be removed from the U.N. body over what he said were atrocities that were committed near Kyiv.

In an address, the Ukrainian leader said Russia should be held accountable and urged the United Nations to take action. Over the weekend, Kyiv officials alleged that Russian forces tortured and massacred civilians in Bucha, which Moscow has categorically denied while accusing the Ukraine government of staging a provocation.

“Now the world can see what Russian military did in Bucha, but the world has yet to see what they have done in other occupied cities and regions of our country,” Zelenskyy said, adding that the U.N. Security Council should “dissolve” altogether if it doesn’t take action against Moscow.

“If there is no alternative and no option, then the next option would be [to] dissolve yourself altogether,” Zelenskyy remarked.

Russia, he added, should be removed as a permanent member of the Security Council. The United States, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Russia are the only permanent members.


Zelenskyy Tells UN ‘Accountability Must Be Inevitable’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the United Nations Security Council that "accountability must be inevitable" for Russia as he accused Russian troops of committing "the most terrible war crimes" since World War Two.

Zelenskyy showed a short video of burned, bloodied, and mutilated bodies, including children, in Irpin, Dymerka, Mariupol, and Bucha.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia then told the Security Council that Russian troops are not targeting civilians, dismissing accusations of abuse as lies.

Zelenskyy questioned the value of the 15-member U.N. Security Council, which has been unable to take any action over Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine because Moscow is a veto power, along with the United States, France, Britain, and China.

"We are dealing with a state that turns its veto at the U.N. Security Council into the right to [cause] death," Zelenskyy said in a live video address from Ukraine's capital Kyiv, urging reform of the world body. "Russia wants to turn Ukraine into silent slaves."

Russia says it is carrying out a "special military operation" that aims to destroy Ukraine's military infrastructure and "denazify" it, and denies attacking civilians. Ukraine says it was invaded without provocation.


Russia’s Gas-for-Rubles Payment Schedule Explained

Russia won’t be seeking gas payments from “unfriendly states” in rubles immediately, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, noting that the switch is likely to be a “gradual process.”

“Nobody is in a rush,” Peskov told reporters. He explained “This is the move in stages, very cautious, with consideration of financial and economic realities existing on global markets. Certainly, there is no room for sudden changes.”

According to Peskov, this must be an “absolutely thought-out, gradual and carefully calibrated activity. It is impossible to act otherwise.”


EU Orders 19 Russian Diplomats to Leave Belgium

The European Union has declared 19 Russian diplomats personae non-gratae for "engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status" and ordered them to leave host nation Belgium, the bloc said, joining E.U. members in expelling envoys.

"Based on the decision by High Representative Josep Borrell, 19 members of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the EU in Brussels have been declared personae non gratae for engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status," the bloc said in a statement.


Germany to Send Additional Weapons to Ukraine

Germany’s foreign minister has spoken out in favor of providing Ukraine with additional weapons to defend itself against Russia.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that “we are looking at what solutions there are, together with the E.U., NATO and in particular the G-7 partners.”

She dismissed criticism that Germany wasn’t doing enough to arm Ukraine, saying “there aren’t many other countries that have supplied more [weapons].”

Baerbock spoke following a conference in Berlin on support for Moldova, a poor, small eastern European nation bordering Ukraine that has been strongly affected by the conflict.

Participants agreed to take in 12,000 Ukrainian refugees currently in Moldova, provide 71 million euros in aid and almost 700 million euros in loans to the country, and support its efforts to fight corruption and decrease its energy dependence on Russia.


27 Russian Diplomats Expelled From Baltics

Estonia and Latvia will close Russia’s consular missions in two cities each and expel a total of 27 Russian diplomats and employees currently stationed in the Baltic countries.

Estonia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the country decided to expel the staff of Russia’s consulates in the southern city of Tartu and border city of Narva and close the premises. The combined 14-member Russian staff, including 7 employees with diplomatic status, must leave the country by April 30, the ministry said.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rincevics said in a tweet that Latvia will close Russian consulates in Daugavpils and Liepaja and expel 13 Russian diplomats and employees.


Putin Warns on Nationalizing Russian Stakes

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that any move by foreign countries to nationalize Russian stakes in companies would be “a double-edged sword.”

“We are already hearing statements from officials about a possible nationalization of some of our assets,” he said. “How far will that get us? Let no one forget that it is a double-edged sword.”

Putin also bemoaned what he said was “administrative pressure on our company Gazprom in some European countries.” Germany on Monday put a government agency in charge of a longtime German subsidiary of Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled energy giant.

The move falls short of nationalization because the German state has not taken ownership of the shares, and it is a temporary change of administration through September.

Gazprom said last week it had cut ties with the unit but Germany says that was invalid because the identity of any new owners is unclear and the deal happened without the required government approval.


Kremlin Says Bucha Is 'Monstrous Forgery' Aimed at Smearing Russia

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Western allegations Russian forces committed war crimes by executing civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were a "monstrous forgery" aimed at denigrating the Russian army.

Since Russian troops withdrew from towns and villages around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Ukrainian troops have been showing journalists corpses of what they say are civilians killed by Russian forces, destroyed houses, and burnt-out cars.

The West says the dead civilians are evidence of war crimes.

"It is a simply a well-directed—but tragic—show," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "It is a forgery aimed at denigrating the Russian army—and it will not work."

"We once again urge the international community: detach yourself from such emotional perceptions and think with your head," Peskov said. "Compare the facts and understand what a monstrous forgery we are dealing with."

Ukraine says Russia is guilty of genocide and President Joe Biden on Monday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes and called for a trial.

The Kremlin said Biden's remarks were unacceptable and unworthy of a leader of the United States.

Russia casts the evidence of civilian executions in Bucha as a cyclical ploy by Ukraine and its Western backers, who Moscow says are gripped by discriminatory anti-Russian paranoia.

"These are fakes that matured in the cynical imagination of Ukrainian propaganda," Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council, said of Bucha.

He suggested that Ukrainian forces had been prepared to kill their own citizens in a bid to discredit Russia.

Russia's defence ministry said it had evidence that the 72nd Ukrainian Main Center for Psychological Operations had helped stage such propaganda in a village 23 km (14 miles) northwest of Kyiv as well as in Sumy, Konotop, and other towns.

Russia has not published evidence for its claims but it says Western media have provided an excessively partial narrative of the war in Ukraine that largely ignores Russia's concerns about the enlargement of NATO and the persecution of Russian speakers.

Moscow has questioned why, if its forces withdrew from Bucha on March 30 and the mayor of Bucha declared the area free of Russian forces on March 31, the bodies of dead civilians were only shown for the first time on April 3.

Russia also says the bodies shown in some footage did not show characteristic signs of degradation that would be expected after a number of days.


NATO Says Russia Regrouping to Try to Take Ukraine's Donbass

Russia is not giving up on its offensive in Ukraine but will try to refocus on completely taking the Donbass region in the coming weeks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

"We now see a significant movement of (Russian) troops away from Kyiv to regroup, re-arm and re-supply and shift their focus to the east," Stoltenberg told a news conference.

"In the coming weeks, we expect a further Russian push in eastern and southern Ukraine to try to take the entire Donbass and to create a land bridge to occupied Crimea," he said before Wednesday's meeting of NATO foreign ministers.


Russia Claims Ukraine Stages More ‘Killings’ of Civilians'

Ukrainian security services have staged more alleged killings of civilians in several towns and villages to make headlines in the Western media and accuse Moscow of war crimes, Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed on Tuesday.

Moscow insists that same tactics have been used by Kyiv to blame Russian forces for atrocities in the town of Bucha last week.

“The troops of the 72nd Ukrainian Main Center for Psychological Operations conducted another staged filming of civilians allegedly killed by violent actions of the Russian armed forces in order for it to be distributed through the Western media,” the ministry’s spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said during a briefing.


EU Imposes New Sanctions on Moscow

The European Union’s executive branch has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia in what would be the first sanctions targeting the country’s lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday the ban on coal imports is worth 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) per year. She added that the EU has already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.

Von der Leyen didn’t mention natural gas. A consensus among the 27 EU member countries on targeting gas that’s used to generate electricity, heat homes and power industry would be more difficult to secure.


EU Reveals Why It Won't Ban Russian Gas

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has announced that introducing a total ban on Russian gas imports has been ruled out because the bloc would not be able to pass a unanimous vote due to Hungary’s position.

“A unanimous decision cannot be taken because there is one country, Hungary, which has said it will veto it,” the politician said in an interview with the Spanish outlet COPE.

At the same time, Borrell seemed to acknowledge Budapest’s position, saying, “Giving up what you don't have is easy,” adding that countries that are much more reliant on Russian gas imports are in a difficult position right now.


Zelenskyy Says Ukraine-Russia Talks Only Option to End War

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday Ukraine had no option but to negotiate with Russia to end fighting but that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin might not personally hold talks.

Zelenskyy was speaking after accusing Russian troops of carrying out extra-judicial killings in the town of Bucha west of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the reports of civilian killings in Bucha were "fakes" aimed at discrediting Russia. Moscow said it would present "empirical evidence" to a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday proving its forces were not involved.

"All of us, including myself, will perceive even the possibility of negotiations as a challenge," Zelenskyy said in an interview with Ukrainian journalists broadcast on national television.

"The challenge is internal, first of all, one's own, human challenge. Then, when you pull yourself together, and you have to do it, I think that we have no other choice."

He said the events in Bucha were unforgivable but Ukraine and Russia should take the difficult option of pursuing talks, and signaled that Moscow should recognize what its troops were alleged to have done.

The Russian news agency Interfax cited a deputy Russian foreign minister as saying talks were continuing via video link.

Asked whether he and Putin would hold direct talks, Zelenskyy said it was possible this would not happen but gave no details.


Ukraine Reports Russian Military Regrouping

Ukraine’s General Staff reports Tuesday morning that Russia is regrouping its troops and preparing for an offensive in Donbas.

“The goal is to establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” the update posted on the General Staff’s Facebook page says.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the Russian military are focusing their efforts on taking control of Popasna and Rubizhne cities, as well as establishing full control over Mariupol, the General Staff said. Other towns and settlements in the two regions are subject to continued shelling.

The Russian troops also continue to block Kharkiv, according to the General Staff.


Ukraine: Civilian Ship Sinking in Mariupol

Ukraine claims a civilian ship is sinking in the port of the besieged city of Mariupol after Russian forces fired on it.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry claimed in a statement Tuesday that the ship was struck during “shelling from the sea” by Russia, causing a fire in the engine room. The crew was rescued, including one injured crew member, it added.

The ministry said the ship was flying the flag of the Dominican Republic and posted a picture of a cargo vessel. It didn’t specify how many people were on board or the nationalities of the crew members.


Ukraine President Says Military Situation in Mariupol Very Difficult

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said Ukraine's efforts to push back Russian troops from Mariupol were facing difficulties.

In a televised interview with local media, Zelenskyy said the military situation in the southern port city was "very difficult."

He also said Turkey had proposed a plan to help evacuate wounded people and dead bodies from the city, but claimed that the initiative depended on the will of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Ukraine Opens Corridors Out of Mariupol

Seven humanitarian corridors will be open on Tuesday, including from the besieged port city of Mariupol and the Russian-controlled Berdyansk, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the messaging app Telegram.

According to Vereshchuk’s post, residents of Mariupol and Berdyansk will be able to leave to Zaporizhzhia on their own transport. Corridors will also be open from the city of Tokmak in the Zaporizhzhia region and the cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna, and Hirske in the Luhansk region.

It was not immediately clear from Vereshchuk’s statement whether Russia has agreed to halt the fighting along the announced corridors. Some of the Ukrainian efforts to evacuate civilians via humanitarian corridors had previously failed as fighting along them continued even despite agreements with Russia.


UN Estimates 11 Million Have Fled Homes in Ukraine

The U.N. migration agency now estimates that more than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.

The International Organization for Migration, in its first such full assessment in three weeks, reported Tuesday that more than 7.1 million had been displaced within Ukraine as of April 1. That comes on top of the figure of more than 4 million who have fled abroad, reported by the U.N. refugee agency.

IOM said more than 2.9 million others are actively considering "leaving their place of habitual residence due to war.”

Ukraine had a pre-war population of 44 million.


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 claimed to be killings of civilians by Russian troops.

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 ceasefire and met with senior Russian officials in Moscow on Monday and will shortly be heading to Ukraine.


Berlin Reveals Its Stance on Russian Gas

German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock has ruled out an import ban on Russian gas since Berlin does not believe that an energy embargo will make Russia drop its military action in Ukraine.
“If imposing a full embargo tomorrow could stop this war then we would do it immediately. Such a ban would only drive the price of this war even higher. But it wouldn’t be able to stop the killing tomorrow,” said Baerbock in an interview with a German broadcaster Tagesschau on Monday evening.

Zelenskyy: Hungary's Orban Will Have to Choose Between Russia and 'Other World'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban would have to choose between Moscow and the "other world," and he claimed that the Hungarian leader feared Russian influence.

Zelenskyy was speaking in a televised interview to Ukrainian media. Orban held on to his sweeping majority at elections on Sunday.


Finland Reveals Timeline of Possible NATO Accession

The Finnish government will provide the country’s parliament with a review of possible NATO accession by the middle of this month, the country’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said.

Moscow’s attack on Ukraine has prompted Finland, which has a common border with Russia, to intensify the discussions on potential benefits of joining the military alliance. Haavisto revealed that Finland’s leaders have already discussed the matter with “almost all” NATO members, and he “almost daily” talks about it with neighboring Sweden which is also considering joining the bloc.


Russia Threatens to Fine Wikipedia if It Doesn't Delete 'False Information'

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor said on Tuesday it wanted Wikipedia to remove "material with inaccurate information of public interest" about the situation in Ukraine.

The regulator accused Wikipedia of hosting false information on what Russia calls its "special operation" in Ukraine and on the actions of Russia's military too.

According to Russian law, the owner of an Internet resource that does not delete illegal information when asked to do so by Roskomnadzor can be fined up to 4 million roubles ($48,120.30), the regulator said.


European Union Commission Chief to Visit Kyiv This Week

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive Commission, will travel to Kyiv this week to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Her spokesman, Eric Mamer, said Tuesday that her trip will come to ahead of a special pledging meeting in Warsaw over the weekend. It is the second such high-level trip by EU officials. European Parliament President Roberta Metsola went to Ukraine last week.


World Bank Says War Shocks to Drag on Asian Economies

A report by the World Bank says disruptions to supplies of commodities, financial strains, and higher prices are among the shocks from the war in Ukraine that will slow economies in Asia in coming months.

The report released Tuesday forecasts slower growth and rising poverty in the Asia-Pacific region this year. Growth for the region is estimated at 5 percent, down from the original forecast of 5.4 percent.

The report says “multiple shocks” are adding to troubles for people and for businesses and that governments whose finances have been stretched by the pandemic have less capacity to help.


Facebook Owner Meta Briefly Blocks Hashtags Tied to Bucha Killings

Facebook owner Meta Platforms briefly restricted hashtags related to civilian deaths in northern Ukraine by Russian forces, a company spokesman confirmed on Monday.

The alleged killings in Bucha, outside Kyiv, have drawn pledges of further sanctions against Moscow from the West.

Meta spokesman Andy Stone said automated systems that scan for violent imagery on Facebook and Instagram, which the company also owns, 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 deletes the content if it is extremely explicit or celebrates suffering.

The social media company also adds warning labels to some graphic posts that users must click through before they can see the images.

Russia has denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians.


Red Cross Says Its Team Is Being Held Close to Mariupol in Ukraine

An international Red Cross team has shelved for Tuesday hopes of entering the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol after being held overnight by police in a town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the west.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been trying to get a small team into Mariupol since Friday as part of efforts to escort beleaguered civilians out and aid in, said the team held by police in Manhush was released overnight. It did not identify the nationality of the police involved.

The ICRC said in a statement that the team’s focus now is on the evacuation operation, and the “incident yesterday shows how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team.”

Jason Straziuso, an ICRC spokesman, said the team was “not planning on trying to enter Mariupol today. Our team’s humanitarian efforts today are focused on helping the evacuation efforts in nearby areas.”


Italy Expels 30 Russian Diplomats Over Security Fears

Italy has expelled 30 Russian diplomats because of security concerns, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday, and Russia was set to retaliate, according to TASS.

A number of other Western governments have taken similar steps following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Italy summoned Russia's ambassador to the foreign ministry on Tuesday to tell him that the diplomats were being expelled.

"The measure is in agreement with other European and Atlantic partners and is necessary for reasons linked to our national security and in the context of the current crisis caused by the unjustified aggression against Ukraine on the part of the Russian Federation," Di Maio said in a statement.

Russia will give an appropriate response, TASS news agency quoted Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.


Ukraine, Russian-backed Separatists Trade Accusations Over Acid Tank Explosion

Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist forces both reported on Tuesday that an industrial acid tank had been blown up in eastern Ukraine, creating a serious potential hazard for local people, and each pinned the blame on the other.

"In Rubizhne, Luhansk region, Russian troops hit a tank with nitric acid," David Arakhamia, a member of Ukraine's negotiating team at peace talks with Russia, claimed on Telegram.

Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai told residents in a message on Facebook: "Do not leave bomb shelters. If you are indoors—close windows and doors."

Luhansk is part of the Donbas region where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian army since 2014.

The armed forces of the self-proclaimed, Russian-backed Luhansk People's Republic claimed on Telegram it was "Ukrainian nationalist formations" who had blown up the acid tank before retreating from the town. They said it had sent up a dangerous cloud of poison gas.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the incident or to establish who was responsible.


Denmark Expels 15 Russian Intelligence Officers

Denmark’s Foreign Ministry says the country is expelling 15 Russian intelligence officers who worked at Russia’s Embassy in Copenhagen.

The ministry said the Russian ambassador was informed of the decision on Tuesday.

The officers have two weeks to leave Denmark. Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said “they pose a risk to our national security that we cannot ignore.”

The move came after France and Germany on Monday announced the expulsion of dozens of Russians with diplomatic status.


Biden Calls for Putin to Face War Crimes Trial as Violent Images From Ukraine’s Bucha Surface

President Joe Biden is once again labeling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and vowing to ratchet up U.S. sanctions against Russia in response to new images of violence on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Images from the Ukrainian town of Bucha show bodies lying dead in the street with some thrown in hastily dug graves, following the Ukrainian government saying they have retaken the city.

Russian officials have denied killing civilians in Bucha, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of committing “genocide.”

Addressing reporters as he arrived at the White House Monday, Biden referred to Putin as “brutal” and called for a war crimes trial against the Russian leader.

“You may remember I got criticized for calling Putin a war criminal,” Biden said, referring to when he first gave Putin the label on March 16. “Well, the truth of the matter—we saw it happen in Bucha—this warrants him—he is a war criminal.”

“We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue to fight and we have to get all the detail so this could be—actually have a war crimes trial. This guy is brutal and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it.”

“But we have to gather the information,” Biden added.

When asked whether he thought the images from Bucha were evidence of a genocide Biden responded, “no, I think it’s a war crime.”

When asked if he would move to impose more sanctions, Biden said, “I’m seeking more sanctions, yes.” Asked for details, the president said, “I’ll let you know.”


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 a "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."


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.”

Jack Phillips, Nick Ciolino, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.
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