Russia says it is focusing its offensive on Ukraine's east but it continues to strike cities elsewhere in a fight – now in its 40th day – that has left thousands dead and forced more than four million to flee.

Vlad Tanyuk, 6, looks at the grave of his mother Ira Tanyuk, who died because of starvation and stress due to conflict, in Bucha, outside Kiev, on April 4, 2022.
Vlad Tanyuk, 6, looks at the grave of his mother Ira Tanyuk, who died because of starvation and stress due to conflict, in Bucha, outside Kiev, on April 4, 2022. (AP)

Monday, April 4, 2022

Russia claims it has 'empirical evidence' it has not been killing civilians in Ukraine 

Russia will present "empirical evidence" to the United Nations Security Council that its forces have not been killing civilians in Ukraine and were not involved in events in Bucha, Vasily Nebenzya, Russia's envoy to the UN said.

"We have empirical evidence to support this," Nebenzya said at a press conference. 

"We intend to submit them to the Security Council as soon as possible so that the international community is not misled by the false plot of Kiev and its Western sponsors."

Russia shifting focus in Ukraine to the country's east and south: US

United States national security adviser Jake Sullivan has warned that Russia is shifting its focus in Ukraine to the country's east and south, after experiencing a stronger-than-expected defence by Ukrainians supported by Western allies.

Sullivan said “the Russians have now realised that the West will not break" in its support of the Ukrainian government. But he warned that Russia was redoubling its offensive after pulling many troops from around the capital of Kiev to the east and south of Ukraine.

Sullivan said the US expects Russia to continue to launch air and missile strikes against Kiev and the western city of Lviv to cause terror and economic damage across the rest of the country.

Ukraine: Russian troops preparing a big attack in the east

Russian troops are preparing for a big attack in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, the local governor Sergiy Gaiday has said on Telegram.

"We see that equipment is coming from different directions, they are bringing manpower, they are bringing fuel," Gaiday said in a video statement.

"We understand that they are preparing for a full-scale big breakthrough," he added.

France reportedly to expel 35 Russian diplomats

France is set to expel 35 Russian diplomats as part of a joint European action after Moscow's ongoing operation in Ukraine.

"France decided this evening to expel a number of Russian personnel with diplomatic status stationed in France whose activities are against our security interests," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

A ministry source, who asked not to be named, said 35 Russian diplomats would be expelled.

Moscow to respond to expulsion of its diplomats from France

Moscow will respond to France's decision to expel Russian diplomats, Interfax news agency reported, citing the Russian foreign ministry.

18 journalists killed amid Ukraine conflict

18 journalists have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s offensive began on February 24, the Ukrainian government has said.

The Ukrainian Culture and Information Ministry said in a statement on social media that each of the deaths and other crimes against media representatives will be investigated.

The ministry added that another 13 journalists had been wounded, eight had been abducted or taken prisoner and three journalists were still missing. It said that several crimes had been committed against journalists from 11 countries, including Ukraine.

Türkiye's mediation 'possible' for liberation of Mariupol: Zelenskyy

Mentioning efforts for the liberation of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pointed to Türkiye's possible mediation.

In response to a question on the possibility of a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Zelenskyy said the Russian side should act fast to arrange a meeting as delaying the negotiation process would worsen the situation for Russia.

There is a possibility of Türkiye's mediation "in this special mission in Mariupol," Zelenskyy said, adding that the issue might be clarified in the coming days or hours.

Putin’s Western accusers should examine own consciences -Lavrov

Western leaders should examine their own consciences before accusing Putin of war crimes, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

The comment came in response to US President Joe Biden accusing Putin of war crimes and calling for a trial. Asked at a news conference about Biden's comments, Lavrov said the West should first consider its own actions in Iraq and Libya.

"Not all is well with the conscience... of American politicians," he said, adding that Russia's mission to the UN would later hold a press conference in New York with "the most detailed material to show the true nature of incidents in Bucha."

US supporting team of international prosecutors collecting evidence on atrocities in Ukraine

The US, at the request of Ukraine, is supporting a multi-national team of international prosecutors to the region to help collect and analyse evidence of atrocities with a view toward pursuing accountability, the State Department said.

"We are tracking and documenting atrocities and sharing information with institutions working to hold responsible those accountable," State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

Ten civilians killed, 46 wounded in bombardment of Mykolaiv: mayor

Ten civilians have been killed and 46 wounded in the Russian bombardment of the Ukrainian town of Mykolaiv, mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said in a video statement.

A strike by the Russian army at 0400 GMT left "one dead and five wounded, including two seriously," he said.

That was followed by another in which "nine people were killed and 41 others wounded," he said, adding the number of casualties could still rise.

Bodies of five men found in a basement in Bucha: prosecutor

The bodies of five men tortured and killed by Russian troops have been found in the basement of a children's health facility, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's office said.

"In the basement of one of the children's sanatoriums, police found the bodies of five men with their hands tied," a statement on Telegram said, also adding that the "unarmed civilians" were "beaten" before being "killed" by "soldiers of the armed forces of the Russian Federation."

Photos showing the bodies accompanied the statement. An investigation into the circumstances of their deaths has been opened, prosecutor Iryna Venediktova's office added.

Germany expels 40 Russian diplomats: minister

Germany is expelling 40 Russian diplomats in response to the reported killings in Bucha and says further measures with partners are being prepared. The decision came in response to “the war crimes committed in Ukraine,” the German Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the images received from the Ukrainian town following the withdrawal of Russian troops “shows an intent to destroy that goes beyond all boundaries.”

Baerbock said the Bucha images also reveal the “unbelievable brutality of the Russian leadership and those who follow its propaganda.” She added “it must also be clear that we must stand up for our freedom and be prepared to defend it.

Moscow to respond to expulsion of its diplomats from Germany

Moscow will respond to Germany's decision to expel 40 Russian diplomats, Interfax news agency reported, citing the Russian foreign ministry.

Ukraine FM: Bucha killings are just the 'tip of the iceberg'

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said the evidence of civilian killings from the town of Bucha are just the "tip of the iceberg" and show the need for tougher sanctions on Moscow.

"The horrors that we've seen in Bucha are just the tip of the iceberg of all the crimes (that) have been committed by the Russian Army," Kuleba said at a press conference alongside British foreign minister Liz Truss.

"Half measures are not enough any more. I demand most severe sanctions this week, this is the plea of the victims of the rapes and killings. If you have doubts about sanctions go to Bucha first."

Pentagon can't independently confirm atrocities in Bucha - official

The US military is not in a position to independently confirm Ukrainian accounts of atrocities by Russian forces against civilians in the town of Bucha, but has no reason to dispute the accounts either, a senior US defence official said.

"We're seeing the same imagery that you are. We have no reason whatsoever to refute the Ukrainian claims about these atrocities -- clearly, deeply, deeply troubling," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The Pentagon can't independently and single handedly confirm that, but we're also not in any position to refute those claims."

Ukraine governor urges evacuations in region targeted by Russia

The situation in the Ukrainian controlled eastern region of Donbass is "tense", a regional governor has said, asking people to evacuate as the army braced for a Russian advance.

"We are firmly in control of all the territory... but the situation everywhere is tense," the governor of the eastern Donetsk region Pavlo Kyrylenko said, adding that "The most difficult situation is in the direction of Izyum where we expect the situation to escalate."

Two thirds of Russian forces near Kiev have withdrawn - US official

Russia has repositioned about two thirds of its forces from around Kiev, with many consolidating in Belarus where they are expected to be refit, resupplied and redeployed elsewhere in Ukraine, a senior US defence official said.

"We still assess that the vast, vast majority of the more than 125 battalion tactical groups that the Russians invested in this invasion are still in Ukraine," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The official estimated that Russian forces that had withdrawn from around Kiev would likely be redirected towards eastern Ukraine, but that was still not confirmed.

No Russian troops remain in Ukraine's Zhytomyr: governor

The governor of Ukraine's northern region of Zhytomyr has reported that there were no longer any Russian troops in the region, which lies west of Kiev on the border with Belarus.

"They left, leaving part of their vehicles, leaving part of their munitions," Governor Vitaliy Bunechko said in an online post.

German agency takes charge of subsidiary of Russia's Gazprom

Germany has put a government agency in charge of a longtime German subsidiary of Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom after Gazprom announces it is withdrawing from Gazprom Germania.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany’s network regulator has been appointed as Gazprom Germania’s trustee until September 30, with the right to dismiss and appoint managers, as a temporary measure to bring “order to the conditions” at the company.

“The German government is doing what is necessary to ensure security of supplies in Germany, and that includes not exposing energy infrastructure in Germany to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin,” Habeck said.

Images of massacre from regions near Kiev ‘horrifying’: Turkish Embassy in Kiev

The images of the massacre reported by media from various regions near Kiev, including Bucha and Irpin, are ”horrifying,” the Turkish Embassy in Kiev has said.

"The targeting of innocent civilians is never acceptable. It is our basic expectation that the matter will be subject to an independent investigation and those responsible will be identified," the embassy said on Twitter.

"As it has been since the first day of the war, Türkiye will continue to work to end such shameful scenes for humanity and to ensure peace as soon as possible," it added.

Biden calls for war crimes trial against Putin

US President Joe Biden has called for war crimes trial against Russia President Vladimir Putin and said he will seek more sanctions after reported atrocities in Ukraine.

“You saw what happened in Bucha,” Biden said. He added that Putin “is a war criminal” Biden’s comments to reporters came after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Bucha, one of the towns surrounding Kiev where Ukrainian officials say the bodies of civilians have been found. 

Zelenskyy called the Russian actions “genocide” and called for the West to apply tougher sanctions against Russia.

Lithuania expels Russian ambassador over Ukraine campaign

Lithuania has expelled the Russian ambassador over Russian aggression in Ukraine, including the "horrific massacre" in the town of Bucha.

"In response to Russia's military aggression against sovereign Ukraine and the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in various occupied Ukrainian cities, including the horrific massacre in Bucha, the Lithuanian government has decided to downgrade the diplomatic representation," Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters.

"The ambassador of the Russian Federation will have to leave Lithuania," he added.

Russia starts own inquiry into Ukraine deaths

A Russian law enforcement agency has launched its own investigation into allegations that Ukrainian civilians were massacred in suburbs of Kiev 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.

Besieged Ukrainian city Mariupol ‘90%’ destroyed: mayor

The Ukrainian port city of Mariupol in the south-east of the country has been "90 percent" destroyed after being besieged by Russian forces, its mayor Vadym Boichenko said.

"The sad news is that 90 percent of the infrastructure in the city is destroyed and 40 percent is unrecoverable," Boichenko told a press conference.

Around 130,000 people remained trapped in the city, which continues to be pounded by Russian bombardments, he said.

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 conflict in Ukraine.

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

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

US to ask UN to suspend Russia from Human Rights Council

The United States will ask the United Nations General Assembly to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

"Russia's participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce. And it is wrong," Thomas-Greenfield said after Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing dozens of civilians in the town of Bucha.

Russia is in the second year of a three-year term on the Geneva-based council. A two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member assembly in New York can suspend a state from the council for persistently committing gross and systematic violations of human rights during its membership.

Russia imposes visa restrictions on citizens of ‘unfriendly countries’

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

The decree, which comes into force today, 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."

161 children killed in Russian attacks

At least 161 children have been killed and 264 others injured since Russia launched its operation in Ukraine on February 24, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office claimed.

The data is not yet complete, the office said in a statement, noting that work is underway to determine the casualties in several regions, particularly in the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol, some areas of the capital Kiev, northern Chernihiv, and the easternmost Luhansk regions.

Currently, it said, the number of most affected children is in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Sumy, and Zhytomyr areas, as well as in Kiev.

UN rights chief ‘horrified’ by Bucha killings

The UN human rights chief has voiced horror at images of dead bodies in the Ukrainian town of Bucha following a Russian retreat and warned of "possible war crimes".

"I am horrified by the images of civilians lying dead on the streets and in improvised graves in the town of Bucha in Ukraine," Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

"Reports emerging from this and other areas raise serious and disturbing questions about possible war crimes, grave breaches of international humanitarian law and serious violations of international human rights law," she added.

Ukraine says 18,300 Russian soldiers killed in conflict

Ukraine has reported that some 18,300 Russian soldiers have been killed in the country. 

In a Facebook post, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said the Russian army lost 147 aircrafts, 134 helicopters and 647 tanks.

At least 1,844 Russian armoured vehicles, 330 artillery systems, 107 rocket launch rocket systems and 54 anti-aircraft warfare systems were destroyed across the country, it added.

More than 4.2 million Ukrainian refugees flee conflict

More than 4.2 million Ukrainian refugees have now fled the country since the Russian operation began, the UN has said, adding that the humanitarian situation was worsening.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 4,215,047 Ukrainians had fled the country since the conflict began, a figure up 38,646 on the numbers for Sunday.

"The humanitarian needs are growing by the minute as more people flee the war in Ukraine," the UN's International Organization for Migration said, while adding that nearly 205,500 non-Ukrainians living, studying or working in the country have also left.

Red Cross cannot reach Mariupol due to security conditions

A team of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been able to reach the besieged city of Mariupol to evacuate civilians, a spokesperson has said, citing security conditions.

"Due to security conditions, our team has not been able to reach Mariupol today," spokesperson Jason Straziuso said.

Previous attempts by the Red Cross to reach the city over recent days and weeks have not succeeded.

Kremlin denies Ukrainian allegations of killing civilians

The Kremlin has said it categorically denied any accusations related to the murder of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha and said Ukrainian allegations on the matter should be treated with doubt.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the facts and chronology of the events in Bucha did not support Ukraine's version of events and urged international leaders not to rush to judgment.

Peskov said Russia's diplomats would press on with their efforts to convene a UN Security Council meeting to discuss what Moscow has called "Ukrainian provocations" in Bucha despite their first effort to arrange such a meeting being blocked.

EU condemns Bucha killings

The European Union’s top diplomat has joined a growing chorus of international criticism blaming the Russian armed forces for alleged atrocities committed against civilians in Ukraine.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says “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.”

Borrell said that the “haunting images of large numbers of civilian deaths and casualties, as well as destruction of civilian infrastructures show the true face of the brutal war of aggression Russia is waging against Ukraine and its people.”

Czechs send 250 soldiers to Slovakia for NATO battlegroup

A total of 250 Czech army paratroopers left for Slovakia, which neighbours conflict-hit Ukraine, to build a NATO battlegroup there, the defence ministry has said.

The battlegroup will comprise up to 2,100 soldiers from Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States. The Czechs will be in command of the battlegroup.

"The key task of the mission is to declare the readiness, resolve and unity of NATO members in protecting the territorial integrity of the alliance," said Colonel Tomas Unzeitig who will lead the battlegroup.

Macron wants fresh sanctions against Russia 

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he was in favour of new sanctions against Moscow after claims that Russian forces committed atrocities against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, a town outside Kiev.

"There are very clear indications of war crimes. It was the Russian army that was in Bucha," Macron told the France Inter broadcaster after the discovery of mass graves and hundreds of dead people northwest of Kiev.

"The scenes are unbearable. International justice must work. Those who were behind these crimes must respond," he said.

Germany is main roadblock for tougher Russian sanctions: Poland 

Germany is the main roadblock to imposing tougher sanctions on Russia, Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said, 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 Russian attacks on 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.

Spanish PM sees possible 'genocide' in Ukraine

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said he saw signs of a possible "genocide" in Ukraine following reports of killing of civilians in Bucha.

"We will do everything to ensure that those who have perpetrated these war crimes do not go unpunished, and therefore appear before the courts...to deal with these alleged cases of (crimes against) humanity, war crimes and why not say it too, genocide," he said in Madrid.

More civilian deaths from Russian attacks

Ukrainian authorities have reported more civilian casualties from the Russian onslaught.

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, according to the regional prosecutor’s office. It said that 10 buildings were destroyed.

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

Russian forces continue to refocus their offensive in Donbass

Russian forces continue to consolidate and reorganise as they refocus their offensive into the Donbass region in the east of Ukraine, British military intelligence has said.

Russian troops, including mercenaries from the Russian state-linked Wagner private military company, are being moved into the area, the Ministry of Defence tweeted.

Russia says footage in Ukraine's Bucha was 'ordered'

Russia's foreign ministry has said that footage of dead civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha had been "ordered" by the United States as part of a plot to blame Russia.

"Who are the masters of provocation? Of course the United States and NATO," ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

Zakharova said the immediate Western outcry over the images of dead civilians indicated the story had been part of a plan to sully Russia's reputation.

In this case, it seems to me that the fact that these statements (about Russia) were made in the first minutes after these materials appeared leaves no doubt as to who ordered this story.

Russia's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

UN chief calls for independent probe into civilian killings 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation into the killing of over 400 civilians in a Ukrainian city following the withdrawal of Russian troops there.

“I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine,” Guterres said on Twitter.

“It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability.” On Sunday, the bodies of at least 410 civilians were recovered in the city of Bucha near the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

Outrage at Bucha killings

Britain, France, Germany, the United States, NATO and the United Nations have all voiced horror at the reports of civilians being murdered in Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called it a "deliberate massacre" while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces are committing "genocide ".

Zelenskyy appeals for support in Grammy video appearance

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appeared in a video aired at the Grammy Awards in the United States and appealed to viewers to support Ukrainians "in any way you can."

"What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people," said Zelenskyy in the video that aired ahead of a performance by John Legend and Ukranian poet Lyuba Yakimchuck.

"Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today, to tell our story. Support us in any way you can. Any, but not silence," he said.

Ukraine: Region cut off from aid to reopen

The Ukrainian military has 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 Kiev is to reopen to some traffic later on Monday.

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

For live updates from Sunday (April 3), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies