Russian troops committing worst atrocities since Second World War, Zelensky tells UN
Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence and a video showing bodies of the dead
- EU, several European countries expel Russian diplomats.
- Red Cross temporarily shelves plans to enter besieged Mariupol.
- UN warns of food, energy and financial 'crisis' due to war.
- What questions do you have about Russia's invasion of Ukraine? Send an email to email@example.com
Ukraine's president told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the Russian military must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes, accusing invading troops of the worst atrocities since the Second World War.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, making his plea via video, cited reported atrocities against civilians carried out by Russian forces in the town of Bucha on the outskirts of the capital of Kyiv, saying they are no different than other terrorists, like the Islamic State extremist group.
Images of slain bodies on the ground, particularly from Bucha, have stirred global revulsion and led to demands for tougher sanctions and war crime prosecutions against Russia.
Zelensky, making his first appearance before the UN's highest body, stressed there are more places in Ukraine that have suffered similar horrors. He called for a tribunal to be established that is similar to the Nuremberg tribunal set up to try war criminals after the Second World War.
Ukrainian officials said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been found in towns around Kyiv that were recaptured from Russian forces and that a "torture chamber" was discovered in Bucha.
The head of NATO warned that Russia is regrouping its forces in order to deploy them to eastern and southern Ukraine for a "crucial phase of the war," and said that more "atrocities" may come to light as Russian troops continue to pull back in the north.
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has vowed that "these acts of terror won't go unpunished," and U.S. President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin should be tried for war crimes.
The Kremlin has denounced the images as fake and suggested the scenes were staged by the Ukrainians. But high-resolution satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies showed that many of the bodies had been lying in the open for weeks, during the time that Russian forces were in the town.
Russian diplomats expelled
Meanwhile, the European Union says 19 Russian diplomats are being expelled from Belgium. The expulsions follow other such moves by countries like Germany, France and Spain amid blistering criticism of Russia's war in Ukraine and discussions on a new set of sanctions.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says the expulsions of its diplomats will prompt a response from Moscow and will complicate international relations.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and its European allies will on Wednesday impose stiff new sanctions, including a ban on new investments in Russia, a U.S. official says. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement.
The EU's executive branch also on Tuesday proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia in what would be the first sanctions targeting the country's lucrative energy industry over its war in Ukraine.
Mariupol unreachable by Red Cross
An international Red Cross team has shelved for Tuesday hopes of entering the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol after being held overnight by police in a town about 20 kilometres to the west.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has been trying to get a small team into Mariupol since Friday as part of efforts to escort beleaguered civilians out and aid in, said the team held by police in Manhush was released overnight. It did not identify the nationality of the police involved, but Manhush is under Russian control.
The ICRC said in a statement that the team's focus now is on the evacuation operation, and the "incident yesterday shows how volatile and complex the operation to facilitate safe passage around Mariupol has been for our team."
The besieged southern port city on the Azov Sea is Russia's main target in the Donbas — an eastern region of Ukraine partly controlled by Moscow-backed separatists — and has seen some of the war's most intense bombardment. Thousands of civilians have been trapped in the city for weeks with scant access to food and water.
The city's fall would help Russia establish a land bridge from the Donbas to Crimea, a southern region annexed by Russia in 2014.
Russia has said it is withdrawing from Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine, and are instead refocusing to "liberate" the Donbas. Zelensky said late Tuesday that Russian forces are trying to push east, but that Ukraine's army is holding them back.
Millions of refugees
The UN migration agency now estimates that more than 11 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia's invasion.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), in its first such full assessment in three weeks, reported Tuesday that more than 7.1 million had been displaced within Ukraine as of April 1.
That comes on top of the figure of more than four million who have fled abroad, reported by the UN refugee agency.
IOM said more than 2.9 million others are actively considering "leaving their place of habitual residence due to war."
Ukraine had a pre-war population of 44 million.
The tally marked an increase from IOM's tally in mid-March of more than 9.7 million displaced internally in Ukraine or driven abroad.
UN warns of global 'crisis'
The United Nations chief says it is more urgent by the day to silence the guns in Ukraine, citing rising deaths and a new UN analysis indicating that 74 developing countries, with a total population of 1.2 billion people, are especially vulnerable to spiking food, energy and fertilizer prices.
Secretary general Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that as a result of the global impact of Russia's "full-fledged invasion on several fronts" of Ukraine, he said "we are already seeing some countries move from vulnerability into crisis and signs of serious social unrest."
"The flames of conflict are fuelled by inequality, deprivation and underfunding," he said. "With all the warning signals flashing red, we have a duty to act."
- AnalysisA Kremlin paper justifies erasing the Ukrainian identity, as Russia is accused of war crimes
On food, Guterres urged all countries to keep markets open, resist unjustified export restrictions, make reserves available to countries at risk of hunger and famine and fund humanitarian appeals.
On energy, he said that using strategic stockpiles and reserves could help ease the energy crisis in the short term, "but the only medium- and long-term solution is to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy."
On finance, he said, "international financial institutions must go into emergency mode." He urged the world's 20 leading economies, the G20, and international financial institutions "to increase liquidity and fiscal space so that governments can provide safety nets for the poorest and most vulnerable."
- This story has been updated to correct that Mariupol is on the Azov Sea, not the Black Sea.Apr 05, 2022 7:18 AM ET
With files from Reuters and CBC News