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Germany expels Russian diplomats as Biden slams Putin for ‘war crimes’

Germany expels Russian diplomats as Biden slams Putin for ‘war crimes’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (centre) inspects a street scattered with damaged Russian war machinery in the town of Bucha, near Kyiv, Ukraine, on 4 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service Handout / Handout Editorial Use Only / No Sales)

The Defence Ministry in Kyiv said that it saw signs of Russia regrouping its troops to gain a tactical advantage in southern areas of Ukraine, storing fuel and organising hospitals for an influx of wounded as it prepares for a new offensive.

Ukraine said that Moscow’s attacks were ongoing, including on the besieged port city of Mariupol, as the world’s attention focused on what Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said was evidence of Russian-perpetrated genocide in northern Ukrainian towns.

US President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin could face a war crimes trial and additional US sanctions, while the European Union said it would hold Russian authorities responsible for the alleged atrocities in Bucha and other towns. Russia denied — without providing any evidence — that its forces had killed civilians.

Key developments

Germany expels Russian diplomats

Germany is expelling 40 staff members of the Russian embassy in Berlin with suspected links to Russian spy agencies as a first response to the alleged killing of Ukrainian civilians by Russian soldiers in Bucha.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the German government decided to declare as persona non grata “a significant number of members of the Russian Embassy who have worked every day against our freedom and against the cohesion of our society here in Germany”.

Ukraine needs urgent help to clear mines  

International assistance is urgently needed to help strengthen Ukraine’s capacity to deal with the threat of explosive ordnance and mines, Henrik Villadsen, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s project coordinator for Ukraine, said in a statement.

“Many civilians couldn’t leave the areas of armed violence and now have to survive in an extremely dangerous environment,” he said. “As military fronts are moving, displaced people feel tempted to return to affected areas they consider to be safe. Mines and unexploded and abandoned ordnance are now a widespread threat to all of them.”

Biden says Putin is ‘brutal’ 

Joe Biden said Putin could face additional sanctions as the US president condemned alleged atrocities committed against civilians in Ukraine.

“This guy is brutal and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous, and everyone’s seen it,” Biden told reporters in his first comments since pictures emerged of dead civilians in mass graves and in the streets of towns newly liberated by Ukrainian forces. “He should be held accountable.”

Biden repeated his assertion that the Russian president is a “war criminal”, and said the evidence could lead to him being tried for war crimes.




Pentagon says Kyiv still at risk 

Ukraine’s capital remains at risk of strikes from Russian forces even as Moscow shifts more of its troops toward the eastern parts of the country, a senior US defence official told reporters.

About a third of the approximately 20 battalion tactical groups Russia deployed around Kyiv remain, with the rest in Belarus or heading that way, said the official, who asked not to be identified. Russian jets are flying about 200 sorties a day over Ukraine, even as the share of missile strikes has been declining, the official said.

US seeks Russia’s suspension from Human Rights Council 

The US will press for Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council amid mounting evidence that its forces are committing war crimes in Ukraine, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, according to a statement from her office. Thomas-Greenfield later said she would raise the issue of atrocities at the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

Highway blocked in protest at Russia trade 

Ukrainian and Polish activists are blocking the key A2 east-west highway between Germany and Poland close to the border at Frankfurt an der Oder, demanding the EU stop trade with Russia.

The demonstration is causing a traffic snarl-up of several kilometres in the eastward direction as protesters refuse to allow trucks to pass, according to Polish police. In recent weeks, activists have blocked transit for trucks leaving Poland to Belarus and Russia at eastern border crossings.

FBI helps Spain seize Russian superyacht 

Spanish police seized a 78m yacht belonging to Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, according to a statement from the Spanish Civil Guard on Monday.

The ship, valued at more than €90-million, has been impounded at the port of Palma de Mallorca by the police in coordination with the FBI. Vekselberg has been sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, but not by the European Union.

Ukraine holding hundreds of Russian POWs 

Ukraine currently holds nearly 600 Russian prisoners of war, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on TV. The Ukrainian government is in a process of organising a prisoner camp for Russians according to international law and is seeking access to Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Russia, she said

Merkel defends her legacy on Ukraine 

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel defended her decision to oppose Ukraine’s membership of Nato following criticism by President Volodymyr Zelensky and others of her policies toward Russia during her 16 years in office. Merkel “stands by her decisions in connection with the 2008 Nato summit”, her spokeswoman said in an emailed statement requested by Bloomberg News.

She said that in light of “the atrocities being discovered in Bucha” and elsewhere, Merkel gives her full support to “all efforts by the federal government and the international community to stand by Ukraine and put an end to Russia’s barbarism and war against Ukraine”.

Lithuania recalls ambassador to Russia 

Lithuania downgraded its diplomatic relations with Russia in response to the alleged atrocities committed in northern Ukraine.

Lithuania is recalling its ambassador from Moscow and asked the Russian envoy to leave the country within seven days, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said, adding that the Baltic nation is also closing the Russian consulate in Klaipeda. Lithuania will reopen its embassy in Kyiv, he said.

Mariupol mayor says Russian attacks continue 

Nearly 130,000 Mariupol residents remain trapped in inhumane conditions as Russian forces continue attacks on the city, Mayor Vadim Boychenko said during an online video briefing.

Russian troops continue to block deliveries of humanitarian aid and evacuation buses to the city where 90% of infrastructure has been destroyed, 40% irreparably, he said. The Ukrainian General Staff said that eight Russian airstrikes were made on Mariupol on Monday.

Finnish customs halts sanctioned shipments 

Finland’s customs office halted and confiscated three Russia-bound shipments of goods sanctioned by the EU at a border crossing over the weekend. The customs office, which stopped short of disclosing the contents, plans a press conference on Wednesday.




Deutsche Bank CEO warns against Russia energy ban 

Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing joined a growing list of German executives and politicians warning of dire consequences for Europe’s biggest economy if Russian energy supplies are cut off.

Already grappling with soaring inflation, Germany would face “a further deterioration of the situation if there’s a stop to imports or deliveries of Russian oil and natural gas”, Sewing said at a press briefing where he spoke in his role as head of the country’s main banking lobby. “A clear recession in Germany would presumably be inevitable.”

Austria won’t support a Russian gas embargo 

Austria won’t support any EU embargo on Russian gas deliveries as the bloc has other options to tighten punitive measures against Putin’s government, Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said on public radio ORF. He reiterated the country’s earlier stance amid increased calls for ending energy trading with Russia.

While one of the largest producers of green power, Austria still relies on gas for about a quarter of its energy needs. Russian imports account for 80% of the country’s gas supply.

Russia energy ban wouldn’t cripple Europe  

Halting Russian energy imports would have a “modest” impact on France’s economy, triggering a decline of as much as 0.3%, while Germany could suffer a moderate drop of as much as 3% in the most pessimistic scenario, according to a report from the Conseil D’Analyse Economique, which provides analysis to the French government.

The hit could be greater for other EU countries, including Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Finland and the Czech Republic, which could see an economic hit of between 1% and 5%. Overall, the impact of banning Russian energy supplies would be relatively mitigated because companies can substitute sources, the report said.

Italy won’t veto sanctions on Russian gas  

Italy won’t veto sanctions on Russian gas, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told the Ansa news agency on the sidelines of a meeting in Zagreb. Italy has been pushing for the EU to impose a price cap on gas imports from Russia, but its proposal is opposed by European partners including Germany.

Kremlin ‘categorically denies’ Bucha allegations 

Russia “categorically denies” allegations its forces killed civilians in Bucha, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated on Monday, providing no evidence to back up Moscow’s assertions that images from the site are fake.

Peskov called on foreign leaders not to rush to make statements about the case before an investigation is conducted.

Germany ‘working every day’ to cut Russian energy reliance 

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck reiterated that efforts are continuing to reduce the country’s reliance on Russian gas, oil and coal as quickly as possible and said progress had been “surprisingly swift”.

“This is the right way to go and one that damages Putin every day,” Habeck told reporters in Berlin. Germany is among a small number of EU members that are opposed to sanctioning Russia’s energy sector, its maritime trade and other key industries. Habeck has argued that an immediate embargo would cause too much collateral damage to Europe’s biggest economy.

More sites in Ukraine’s west and east targeted 

The central-western Ukraine region of Ternopil was shelled overnight, the head of the regional administration said in a video on his Telegram channel. Areas near the southern port city of Odesa were also targeted, while the General Staff of Ukrainian Armed Forces said Ochakiv on the Black Sea was hit. Russian rockets have previously struck fuel depots and other key infrastructure in the west.

It comes as Russian forces refocus their campaign on the east and south and pull back from areas around Kyiv in the north. Still, the Ukraine military said a residential district in the northern city of Kharkiv was also shelled, killing seven people and injuring 34, and fighting in the area continues.

The Ukrainian update said almost the entire Luhansk region of Donbas in the east was under mortar fire. The neighbouring Donetsk government urged locals to leave areas around the line of contact, which divides Russia-backed separatist areas from the rest of Ukraine.




Truss to call for tougher sanctions 

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was to travel to Poland on Monday to meet Ukrainian and Polish foreign ministers ahead of Group of Seven and Nato talks in Brussels later this week.

She planned to call for tougher sanctions against Russia, the UK government said in an emailed statement.

EU says it holds Russia responsible for atrocities 

The EU condemned Russia for atrocities by its military in several Ukrainian towns, saying that the bloc will “as a matter of urgency” work on additional sanctions against Moscow.

“The Russian authorities are responsible for these atrocities, committed while they had effective control of the area,” the bloc said in a joint statement, adding that Brussels will assist Ukraine in collecting and preserving evidence of war crimes. “They are subject to the international law of occupation.”

Poland proposes ban on EU visas for Russians 

Polish Premier Mateusz Morawiecki proposed an EU ban on visas for Russian citizens during a press conference in Warsaw, calling the move “indispensable”.

He appealed for an international investigation of what he described as a “genocide” against Ukrainians and tougher sanctions against Russia, saying the current measures aren’t working.

It’s unclear whether the rest of the bloc would go along with such a step, which could be disruptive.

Arab League foreign ministers to meet Russian and Ukrainian counterparts

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq and Sudan plan meetings with Russia and Ukraine to promote a diplomatic solution to the war.

The group was to travel to Moscow on Monday for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then visit Poland to meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Arab League countries traditionally buy large quantities of grain from Russia and Ukraine, which together account for more than 25% of global wheat exports. DM


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