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Zelenskyy tells UN Russian military must be brought to justice
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 04 - 2022

Russia's war in Ukraine is taking on a new dimension with growing evidence of human rights atrocities by Vladimir Putin's troops, accused of killing civilians in cold blood as they retreated from the Kiev region.
Moves are afoot to investigate war crimes but there are fears that similar massacres could occur, given Russia's failure to gain control of the country or even any key cities following its invasion on Feb. 24.
Moscow is now concentrating its offensive on eastern and southern Ukraine. Thousands have been killed so far and Russian bombardments have caused widespread devastation. Millions have fled their homes, creating Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.
The war has deepened the rupture between Russia and the West, which is planning more economic sanctions against Moscow.
Satellite photographs released on Monday appear to rebut Russian assertions that dead bodies in civilian clothing found in Bucha had appeared there after Russian forces retreated from the devastated Ukrainian town. Moscow has called the reports fake.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited Bucha on Monday, spoke to the UN Security Council for the first time on Tuesday at a meeting that focused on what appears to be deliberate killings of civilians in Ukraine by Russian troops.
Zelenskyy also told the UN Security Council that the Russian military must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes.
In a video appearance Tuesday, Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin's troops of the worst atrocities since World War II and said they are no different from other terrorists like the Islamic State extremist group.
The Ukrainian leader made his plea as grisly evidence continued to emerge of civilian massacres carried out by Russian forces on the outskirts of Kiev.
The images, particularly from the town of Bucha, have stirred global revulsion and led to demands for tougher sanctions and war crime prosecutions against Russia.
Zelenskyy showed the UN's most powerful body brief video footage of bloody corpses that ended with the words "Stop Russian Aggression."
Zelenskyy's spokesperson told Euronews there are fears that similar massacres could occur elsewhere as Russian troops retreat towards Belarus. Ukrainian prosecutor-general has said a "similar humanitarian situation" to Bucha exists in other areas where Russian forces recently left, such as around the northern cities of Sumy and Chernihiv.
EU and UK leaders have promised further sanctions against Moscow in the wake of mounting evidence of Russian atrocities against civilians amid the withdrawal from the outskirts of Kiev, while US President Joe Biden has called for a "war crimes trial" in light of the allegations.
Ukraine's latest daily military report suggests Russian forces are preparing for a major attack in eastern Ukraine, and Germany, France and Lithuania all took action on Monday to expel Russian diplomats.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated on Monday from the besieged port of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.
EU leaders Ursula von der Leyen and Josep Borrell will visit Kiev this week to meet Zelenskyy, the Commission president's spokesman said. The EU, the UK and the US have promised further sanctions against Moscow in the wake of mounting evidence of Russian atrocities.
President Biden branded Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" on Monday and called for a "war crimes trial". Ukraine's latest daily military report suggests Russian forces are preparing for a major attack in eastern Ukraine. The city of Kramatorsk was bombarded overnight.
Germany, France and Lithuania all took action on Monday to expel Russian diplomats, followed on Tuesday by Denmark, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Ukrainian Vereshchuk said seven humanitarian corridors were to open on Tuesday from Mariupol and Berdyansk, adding that more than 1,550 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol on Monday.
Authorities in Romania said Tuesday that the country is expelling 10 diplomats from Russia's embassy in Bucharest.
On Tuesday evening, the Slovenian government also stated that 33 Russian diplomats were being expelled after bodies were found in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where Kiev has accused Russian forces of a massacre.
Romania's Foreign Ministry said the actions of 10 embassy workers, who have been declared persona non grata, "contravene the provisions of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relationships."
As of Tuesday, more than 200 Russian diplomats or employees had been expelled from at least a dozen countries, including Germany, France and Italy.
Zelenskyy on Tuesday compared the war in Ukraine to the massacre in Guernica, a small town in the Spanish Basque Country bombed in 1937 by Nazi aircraft in support of Franco's troops during the Spanish Civil War.
"It's April 2022, but it feels like April 1937, when the world learned about what was happening in one of your cities, Guernica," Ukraine's president said in a live broadcast to the Spanish MPs.
Guernica was bombed by the German Condor Legion, ushering in the era of massive air raids on civilians. The event was immortalized by painter Pablo Picasso in one of the world's most famous canvases, which became an anti-war symbol.
Zelenskyy's address lasted about ten minutes and garnered applause from the deputies and government ministers afterwards.
"As President Zelenskyy said, we would never have thought that we would see images of bombardments and massacres of innocent civilian populations on European soil again," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.
Estonia and Latvia said they 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.
The ministry's undersecretary Mart Volmer said "there can be no talk of business as usual" with Moscow following allegations of atrocities against civilians in Ukrainian cities by Russian forces.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rincevics said in a tweet that Latvia would close Russian consulates in Daugavpils and Liepaja and expel 13 Russian diplomats and employees.
Daugavpils is Latvia's second largest city situated close to the border with Belarus and Lithuania in southeastern Latvia, not very far from the Russian border, and Liepaja is a major port city.
Spain has become the latest EU country to expel Russian diplomats. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said the group represents a threat to Spain's security, and the timing of the expulsion "is a response to crimes that cannot go unpunished," in a reference to what he said were "barbaric" Russian war crimes in Ukraine in recent days.
The complete list of who is to be asked to leave the country is being finalized and may amount to more than 25 people, Albares stated.
The European Union is also expelling Russian diplomats, deciding to declare "several" members of the Russian representation to the EU "persona non grata" because of "activities contrary" to their status as diplomats — which is usually diplomatic code for spying.
"The Russian ambassador was summoned Tuesday by the secretary general of the foreign action service to inform him of this decision," said EU High Representative Josep Borrell, although he didn't specify the number of Russian diplomats affected by this measure.
Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State said Russia had a "deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape" in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where dozens of bodies of civilians were discovered after Kremlin forces withdrew from the area.
Speaking to reporters before flying to Brussels to meet with European counterparts, Blinken said, "What we saw in Bucha is not the isolated act of a rogue unit. It is a deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape, commit atrocities."
There has been widespread condemnation of the actions of Russian soldiers, as more evidence is catalogued in Bucha of what happened there. Russia denies its military took part in any killings of civilians.
Also new sanctions under discussion within the European Union against Russia "will have to integrate oil and coal", the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday during a visit to Berlin.
"We are working together, France and Germany, to define what this new package (of sanctions) could be, which will have to integrate Russian oil and coal", he said during a joint press conference with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock.
"The modalities of their implementation are the subject of discussions today," he added.
However, a Spanish minister said on Tuesday it would be "very hard" for the EU to take measures against Russia's natural gas sector because some of the bloc's countries are dependent on it for their energy supply and the EU's strength lies in its unity.
"It is very difficult to explain to European public opinion and Ukrainian society that we are still importing Russian energy that finances this war" in Ukraine, said Teresa Ribera, Spain's minister for ecological transition. The EU gets around 40% of its natural gas from Russia.
Ribera said the energy imports create "obvious moral tension," adding that accusations of Russian war crimes in Bucha in recent days increased the pressure on the EU to act. She said Spain should invest in industrial-scale solar power facilities to improve the EU's energy self-sufficiency.
The French National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor's Office (Pnat) announced on Tuesday that it had opened three new investigations for "war crimes" over acts committed against French nationals in Ukraine since the Russian invasion.
The facts referred to were allegedly committed in Mariupol between Feb. 25 and March 16, in Hostomel in the Kiev region between March 1 and 12, and in Chernihiv in the north since Feb. 24, prosecutors said in a statement.
The suspects have yet to be identified. The prosecutors' statement said the suspected crimes could include deliberate attacks against civilians and deliberately withholding the essentials they needed to survive, physical assaults, and the deliberate destruction of civilian installations.
The statement did not explain how investigators will go about their work or give details about the suspected French victims and what happened to them.The investigations have been entrusted to the Central Office for the Fight against Crimes against Humanity, Genocide and War Crimes (OCLCH).
French prosecutors already opened an investigation after the death of Pierre Zakrzewski, a Franco-Irish journalist, on March 14 near the Ukrainian capital.
French law allows prosecutors to investigate suspected war crimes committed outside of France if they involve French victims or suspects who are French or who reside in France. — Euronews

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