BOUCHA | Ten Russian soldiers have been charged with alleged war crimes in Boutcha, Ukraine’s attorney general said on Thursday, the day the UN chief visited that Kyiv suburb that has become a symbol of the horrors of war.
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At the same time, US President Joe Biden reiterated US support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s “atrocities and aggression” and asked Congress for a $33 billion extension.
“Ten soldiers of the Russian 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade, part of the Russian 35th Army, have been charged in connection with the cruel treatment of civilians and other violations of the laws and customs of war,” they said, prosecutor Iryna Venediktova said on Telegram.
Ukrainian investigators have also identified “more than 8,000 cases” of alleged war crimes since the beginning of the Russian invasion, she said in an interview with Deutsche Welle at the time.
On April 2, AFP journalists in Boutcha discovered a street littered with bodies, those of men dressed as civilians. And the United Nations claimed, after an operation in that city on March 9,
These charges are the first since these macabre discoveries. The prosecutor specified that the ten men would be the subject of an investigation with a view to arresting them and bringing them to justice.
At the beginning of April, Moscow denied any responsibility and spoke of corpses “staged” by Kyiv.
The UN wants to evacuate Mariupol
Hours earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Moscow to cooperate in the International Criminal Court’s investigation into possible war crimes during a trip to Boutcha and other Kyiv suburbs, the scene of abuses Ukrainians blame on Russian forces.
“When we see this horrific site, I see the importance of conducting a full investigation and being accountable,” Mr Guterres said. “I urge Russia to agree to cooperate with the International Criminal Court,” he added.
Mr Guterres is making his first visit to Ukraine since the conflict began and was due to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the afternoon.
This trip comes two days after a meeting in Moscow with Vladimir Putin, where he asked Russia to work with the UN to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from the bombed areas.
The United Nations coordinator in Ukraine announced on Thursday that she was leaving for the south of the country in preparation for an attempt to evacuate the besieged and devastated city of Mariupol, which is almost completely controlled by Russian forces.
The southern and eastern regions, where the Russian offensive is now concentrated, were heavily bombed on Thursday.
“The enemy is stepping up their offensive. The occupiers are conducting strikes practically in all directions,” the Ukrainian staff said in its morning note, with particularly intense activity in the Kharkiv and Donbass regions. According to him, the Russian army is trying to prevent the transfer of Ukrainian forces from the north to the east.
For its part, the Russian army claimed to have destroyed two arms and ammunition depots in the Kharkiv region with “high-precision missiles” during the night and to have carried out airstrikes on 67 Ukrainian military sites.
In Kherson, the only major city that the Russians have completely taken since they began their invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the Russian local government on Thursday wanted to introduce the ruble instead of the Ukrainian hryvnia from May 1st.
It was “an act of annexation and a serious violation by Russia” of the UN Charter, criticized Lioudmyla Denissova, the person responsible for human rights in the Ukrainian parliament.
In the south, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not been able to gain access to the Russian-controlled Zaporijjia nuclear power plant since the invasion. IAEA Director Rafael Grossi, who returned from Ukraine, said Thursday he was “concerned”.
Negotiations: Ankara offers itself
On Thursday, the commander of Ukraine’s air force estimated that the rocket launchers provided by the West would not have enough range to “reach the occupier’s planes that are dropping bombs on our cities at an altitude of eight kilometers and more”.
“We need medium and long-range anti-aircraft systems” and “modern fighters,” Mykola Olechchuk said on Telegram.
The UK on Wednesday urged Ukraine’s allies to “show courage” and increase their military aid.
German MPs voted by a large majority on Thursday in favor of a motion calling on their hitherto reluctant government to speed up deliveries of heavy weapons to Ukraine.
Arms supplies to Ukraine “threaten European security,” the Kremlin warned on Thursday, while Putin promised on Wednesday a “swift and lightning-fast” response to any external intervention in the conflict in Ukraine.
The United States is “not attacking” Russia, but is “helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression” and has already supplied 10 anti-tank weapons for every Russian tank, Joe Biden said Thursday.
An adviser to the Ukrainian Presidency has hinted that Kyiv may attack military targets in Russia.
“Ukraine will defend itself by any means, including attacks on warehouses and Russian assassin bases. The world recognizes this right,” Mykhaïlo Podoliak wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Thursday that he is ready to “take the initiative” to end the war during a phone call with Mr Putin, Ankara said. Turkey twice hosted direct negotiations between the two parties in March, and Moscow and Washington held prisoner swaps on its soil on Wednesday.
Gazprom benefits greatly
From an economic perspective, the White House on Thursday proposed using the assets confiscated from Russian oligarchs to offset the damage caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Joe Biden will ask Congress to release an additional $33 billion in response to the war in Ukraine, including $20 billion in military aid, a senior US official said the same day.
The European executive announced on Thursday that it had paid a total of 3.5 billion euros in European funds to the 27 member states to take in refugees, including 560 million to Poland, the country currently taking in the most people.
The day before, the Russian company Gazprom had announced that it had stopped all gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen denounced the “gas blackmail” and reiterated that these two heavily dependent on Russian gas EU and NATO member countries are now being supplied “by their neighbors in the ‘European Union'”.
The United States will not allow Moscow to “harass” European countries by threatening to deprive them of their energy resources, Joe Biden said Thursday.
European energy ministers will meet for an “extraordinary meeting” on May 2, according to the French EU Presidency.
Gazprom on Thursday announced a substantial increase in its 2021 net profit on the back of the post-pandemic economic recovery and rising demand for hydrocarbons.