Sight Magazine – Russia bombs and US imposes sanctions as Ukraine seeks decisive aid

Lviv, Ukraine/Dublin, Ireland

Russian forces bombarded Ukrainian towns as the United States imposed new sanctions on Wednesday after killings of civilians widely condemned as war crimes and Ukraine’s president called for a decisive Western response amid divisions in Europe.

Russia’s 42-day invasion has forced more than four million people to flee abroad, killed or injured thousands, left a quarter of the population homeless, turned entire cities to rubble and caused a multitude of Western restrictions on Russian elites and economy.

A view shows an apartment building damaged by heavy shelling, as the Russian attack on Ukraine continues, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6. PHOTO: Reuters/Serhii Nuzhnenko.

The new measures announced by Washington included sanctions against the two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin, days after the grim discovery of civilians shot dead at close range in Bucha, north of kyiv, during its recapture from Russian forces.

“Nothing less than major war crimes is happening,” Biden said in a speech to labor leaders, referring to the Ukrainian town of Bucha recaptured from Russian forces, where bodies of shot civilians had been found.

“Responsible nations must come together to hold these perpetrators accountable,” he said. “And with our allies and partners, we will continue to increase economic costs and increase Putin’s pain.”

The United States wants Russia kicked out of the G20 forum and will boycott a number of G20 meetings in Indonesia if Russian officials show up, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy criticized some Westerners and said he could not tolerate “any indecision”.

“The only thing we lack is the principled approach of some leaders – political leaders, business leaders – who still believe that war and war crimes are not something as horrible as financial losses,” he told Irish lawmakers.

European Union diplomats did not approve new sanctions on Wednesday as technical issues needed to be resolved, including whether a coal ban would affect existing contracts, sources said.

EU member Hungary said it was ready to meet a Russian demand to pay rubles for its gas, breaking ranks with the rest of the bloc and underscoring the continent’s reliance on imports that have plagued it prevented from a tougher response in the Kremlin.

Western politicians have denounced Bucha’s killings as war crimes, and Ukrainian officials say a mass grave near a church contained between 150 and 300 bodies.

Moscow has denied targeting civilians there or elsewhere. The Russian Foreign Ministry said images of bodies in Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace talks with kyiv.

Russia says it is engaged in a “special military operation” intended to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and Western governments dismiss this as a false pretext for its invasion.

Reflecting these fears, the EU executive said it had started a stockpiling operation to bolster its defenses against chemical, nuclear and biological threats.

besieged city
Ukrainian authorities said on Wednesday evening that they could not help people evacuate the town of Izyum on the eastern frontline or send humanitarian aid because it is completely under Russian control while the east is experiencing the worst fights.

A siege of the southern port of Mariupol trapped tens of thousands of residents without food, water or electricity.

Ukrainian Red Cross Bus

People fleeing Berdyansk take buses in an International Committee of the Red Cross convoy to Zaporizhzhia, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Ukraine April 6, in this still image obtained from video to distribute. PHOTO: International Committee of the Red Cross/Handout via Reuters.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said an ICRC team drove a convoy of buses and private cars carrying more than 1,000 people to Zaporizhzhia after civilians fled on their own from the besieged Ukrainian town of Mariupol.

“The arrival of this convoy in Zaporizhzhia is a huge relief for hundreds of people who have suffered tremendously and who are now in a safer place. It is clear, however, that thousands more civilians trapped inside Mariupol need safe passage and assistance to enter,” Pascal Hundt, head of the ICRC delegation in Ukraine, said in a statement.

State-owned Ukrainian Railways said there were a number of casualties after three rockets hit a train station in eastern Ukraine. He did not give a specific location.

Many residents of the eastern town of Derhachi, just north of Kharkiv and near the border with Russia, decided to leave while they could.

The buildings were badly damaged by Russian artillery. Kharkiv itself has been hammered by airstrikes and rockets from the start.

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Mykola, a father-of-two in Derhachi who declined to give his surname, said he could hear the thump of shelling every night and hunkered down with his family in the hallway of their home .

“[We’ll go] wherever there are no explosions, where children won’t have to hear them,” he said as he hugged his young son and struggled to hold back tears.

The Ukrainian military said Russian forces were continuing preparations for an offensive in the east to take full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. He said the main objective of the current hostilities was Donetsk, where Russian troops were still trying to seize all of Mariupol.

Ten high-rise buildings were set on fire in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk after Russian shelling on Wednesday, the region’s governor said in an online post.

Cleaning up Chernihiv in Ukraine

Municipal workers remove debris in a residential area damaged by heavy shelling and airstrikes, as the Russian attack on Ukraine continues, in Chernihiv, Ukraine, April 6. PHOTO: Reuters/Serhii Nuzhnenko

New penalties
The new US sanctions include a ban on Americans investing in Russia.

The sanctions hit Russia’s Sberbank, which owns a third of Russia’s total banking assets, and Alfabank, the country’s fourth-largest financial institution, but energy transactions were exempted, US officials said.

Britain also froze the assets of Sberbank and announced it would ban imports of Russian coal by the end of the year.

But Europe is walking a tightrope as Russia supplies around 40% of the EU’s natural gas consumption and the bloc also receives a third of its oil imports from Russia, or about $700 million a year. day.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy that depends on Russian gas for much of its energy needs, has warned that while it supports an end to Russian energy imports as soon as possible, it cannot do so. overnight.

Despite sanctions, the Russian ruble extended recovery gains on Wednesday, returning to levels seen before the invasion, dispelling fears of a potential default on international debt as it paid dollar bondholders in rubles .

– Additional reporting by Reuters offices