Russia-Ukraine crisis

Ukraine pleads for total Russian energy ban, braces for assault in the east and south

Reuters
Ukraine pleads for total Russian energy ban, braces for assault in the east and south

BUCHA'S DEAD. A funeral service employee looks at bodies of civilians, collected from streets to local cemetery, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine April 6, 2022.

Oleg Pereverzev/Reuters

(2nd UPDATE) 'Sanctions against Russia must be ruinous enough for us to end this terrible war,' Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine's presidential office, says

LVIV, Ukraine – Ukraine stepped up calls on Thursday, April 7, for financial sanctions crippling enough to force Moscow to end the war as its officials rushed to evacuate civilians from cities and towns in the east before an anticipated major Russian offensive there.

The democratic world must stop buying Russian oil and cut off Russian banks from the international finance system, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, adding that economic concerns should not come above punishment for civilian deaths that Ukraine and many of its Western allies have condemned as war crimes.

“Once and for all, we can teach Russia and any other potential aggressors that those who choose war always lose,” Zelenskiy said in an address to the Greek parliament. “Those who blackmail Europe with economic and energy crisis always lose.”

Washington, which banned Russian oil imports last month, took further steps on Wednesday to isolate Moscow, sanctioning two major lenders and President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters, and banning US investment in Russia. Washington also called for Russia’s expulsion from the Group of 20 major economies.

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told a NATO meeting that new EU measures, including a ban on Russian coal, initially expected on Wednesday, could be passed on Thursday or Friday and the bloc would discuss an oil embargo next. In a symbolic move, the United Nations General Assembly was set to vote on Thursday on suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The pressure to tighten sanctions follows international condemnation of apparent executions of civilians in the streets of Bucha, a town northeast of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv that was recaptured from Russian forces.

Moscow has denied targeting civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions against Moscow and derail peace talks..

Ukrainian officials say that after withdrawing from Kyiv’s outskirts, Russian forces are regrouping to try to gain full
control over the eastern breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The besieged southern port of Mariupol, where the mayor said over 100,000 people were still trapped, was also a target.

“Evacuate! The chances of saving yourself and your family from Russian death are dwindling every day,” Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

Russia says it launched what it calls a “special military operation” on February 24 to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its Western allies reject that as a false pretext for its invasion.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said that while Moscow’s focus was now on the east, its ultimate goal was to seize all of Ukraine.

“Russia planned to do this quickly, but Putin’s blitzkrieg failed. Even so, Russia has not abandoned its plan to take the entire territory of Ukraine,” she told a video briefing.

A senior Ukrainian military official also warned Russia could renew its attack on the capital if its campaign in Donetsk
and Luhansk proved successful.

Calls for more action

The six-week-long war has forced over 4 million Ukrainians to flee abroad, killed or injured thousands, left a quarter of the population homeless, turned cities into rubble and set off Western restrictions targeting Russia’s economy and elites.

But Ukraine says its allies must go further, calling for a total ban on energy imports from Russia, halting any supplies
Russia could use in weapons production, and sustained arms deliveries for the Ukrainian forces.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after the foreign ministers’ meeting that members had agreed to strengthen support to Ukraine.

Kyiv says starving Moscow’s war machine is the only way to bring it to a peace settlement in talks which have continued on and off since the early days of the conflict, with both sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Kyiv had presented Moscow with a draft peace deal that contained “unacceptable” elements and deviated from previously agreed proposals.

Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed those comments, telling Reuters in a written statement that Lavrov was not directly involved in negotiations. His statements were “of purely propagandistic significance” aimed at diverting attention from events in Bucha, Podolyak said.

Many Western leaders have denounced the killings in Bucha as war crimes.

On Wednesday, Reuters reporters saw the body of a man with a rope tied around his feet and a charred hole in his forehead in the town, one of at least five victims shot through the head documented by the news organization.

Since Russian troops pulled back from Bucha last week, Ukrainian officials have said hundreds of civilians have been found dead. Bucha’s mayor has said dozens were the victims of extra-judicial killings carried out by Russian troops. Reuters could not independently verify those figures.

Media outlets including Reuters have seen satellite images released by a private security company that appear to show bodies in the town while it was still occupied by Russia, contradicting Moscow’s line that Ukraine staged the bodies after retaking the town.

Accounts by at least a dozen of the residents of one apartment complex in Bucha painted a picture of violence and
intimidation by Russian soldiers. The mutilated bodies of one resident of the complex and another local were discovered within a building in the complex after the Russians withdrew.

Energy sanctions

While Russia’s prime minister said its economy faced the most difficult situation in three decades because of Western sanctions, extending them into the energy sector poses a challenge for Europe too.

Approval of the latest package of EU sanctions, targeting almost 20 billion euros ($21.78 billion) in trade, was delayed because Germany wanted more time to implement a ban on Russian coal, an EU source said. The ban could be approved on Thursday but would not take effect until August, a month later than previously proposed.

Britain, outside the EU, said it would ban imports of Russian coal at the end of the year.

Banning Russian crude imports, as the EU executive has said it will do next, could prove even trickier. Russian gas accounts for about 40% of gas consumption in the 27-country bloc and its oil about a third of crude imports. – Rappler.com

$1 = 0.9181 euros

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