US targets Putin’s daughters with sanctions amid outrage over civilian deaths in Ukraine

The United States on Wednesday announced sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and said it was toughening sentences on Russian banks in retaliation for “war crimes” in Ukraine.

The actions taken against Sberbank and Alfa Bank prohibit assets from touching the US financial system and prevent Americans from doing business with these institutions.

In addition to sanctions targeting Putin’s adult daughters, Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, the United States targets Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin; the wife and children of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; and members of the Russian Security Council, including Dmitry Medvedev, former president and prime minister.

The sanctions cut off all close members of Putin’s family from the US financial system and freeze any assets they hold in the United States.

The European Union executive, meanwhile, has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia, which are estimated at 4 billion euros (C$5.4 billion) a year. It would be the first time the 27-nation bloc has sanctioned the country’s lucrative energy industry during the war.

Norway decided on Wednesday to follow other European nations in announcing that it was expelling three Russian diplomats. Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said the move comes “at a time when the whole world is shaken by reports of abuse of civilians by Russian forces, particularly in the town of Bucha.”

Ukrainian soldiers recover the remains of four civilians killed inside a burnt-out vehicle in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)

Nearly 200 Russian diplomatic staff were expelled from European countries this week amid growing outrage over the killings of civilians in Ukraine.

Over the past few days, there has been a global outcry over what appears to be intentional killings of civilians in Bucha and other Ukrainian towns before Russian forces retreated from the outskirts of kyiv. The evidence has led Western nations to expel dozens of diplomats from Moscow and propose new sanctions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has stood by his demands for war crimes trials against Russian troops and their leaders, while warning that they are regrouping for further attacks on eastern and southern Ukraine.

Speaking to the UN Security Council via video on Tuesday, Zelensky said civilians in towns around kyiv had been tortured, shot in the back of the neck, thrown into wells, blasted with grenades in their apartments and crushed to death by tanks while in cars.

WATCH | Zelensky describes the horrific deaths of Ukrainian civilians at the UN:

Zelensky describes Bucha atrocities and shows graphic video in brutal UN speech

WARNING: This video contains graphic footage | Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered a chilling account of the horrors left by Russian troops in Bucha to members of the United Nations Security Council as he passionately pleaded for the Kremlin to be held accountable. 2:02

Those who carried out the killings and those who gave the orders “must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes” before a tribunal similar to the one established in Nuremberg after World War II, he said.

Moscow’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said “not a single local person” suffered violence while Bucha was under Russian control, and, reiterating Kremlin comments, said the footage video of bodies in the streets were “a gross fake” staged by Ukrainians.

Evidence of murders in satellite images

The German government said on Wednesday it had information that bodies found after Ukraine took over Bucha last week had been lying there since at least March 10, when Russian troops controlled the town.

Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters in Berlin that the information was based on non-commercial satellite images taken March 10-18 of Yablonska Street in Bucha.

“Credible information shows that from March 7 to March 30, Russian soldiers and security forces were deployed in this area,” he said. “They were also tasked with interrogating prisoners who were then executed.”

“Hunger is also a weapon”, says Zelensky

On Wednesday, Zelensky accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war by deliberately targeting Ukraine’s essential food supplies during its nearly six-week invasion.

In address to Irish lawmakers, he said Russian forces are ‘destroying things that provide livelihoods’, including food storage depots, blocking ports so Ukraine can’t export food and “put mines in the fields”.

“For them, hunger is also a weapon, a weapon against us ordinary people,” he said, accusing Russia of “deliberately causing a food crisis” in Ukraine, a major global producer of staple foods. including wheat and sunflower oil.

Journalists count dozens of corpses in Bucha

In the still largely empty streets of Bucha, officials captured images of crumbling buildings, burnt-out military vehicles and dead bodies before rounding up the bodies.

Survivors who hid in their homes during the occupation, many of them past middle age, wandered past charred tanks and shattered windows with plastic bags containing food and other humanitarian aid. Red Cross workers checked the intact houses.

Associated Press reporters in Bucha counted dozens of plainclothes bodies and interviewed Ukrainians who said they had witnessed atrocities.

WATCH | Refugees describe fleeing the fighting:

Ukrainian refugees recount terrifying escape, soldiers take brief respite from war

There is no end to the harrowing stories of escape from war in Ukraine, with growing fears that Russia is redeploying troops to the eastern part of the country. In areas like Irpin, where Russian forces have departed, the reprieve allowed Ukrainian soldiers to briefly see family members again. 2:04

The dead at Bucha included a pile of six charred bodies, as reported by AP reporters. It is not known who they were or under what circumstances they died. One body was likely that of a child, said Andrii Nebytov, chief of police for the Kyiv region.

Many of the dead seen by AP reporters appeared to have been shot at close range, and some had their hands tied or their flesh burned.

The AP and PBS series First line jointly verified at least 90 incidents during the war that appear to violate international law. The War Crimes Watch Ukraine project looks at apparently targeted attacks as well as indiscriminate attacks.

Local residents line up for humanitarian aid in Bucha on Tuesday. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Bucha footage revealed “not the random act of a rogue unit” but “a deliberate campaign to kill, torture, rape, commit atrocities”. He said the atrocity reports were “more than believable”.

China says reports and images of civilian deaths in Bucha are “deeply disturbing” and calls for an investigation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday that China supports all initiatives and measures “helping to alleviate the humanitarian crisis” in the country and is “ready to continue working with the international community to avoid harm to civilians”.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague opened a month ago an investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv, 25-year-old Dmitriy Yevtushkov searched through the rubble of apartment buildings and found only a photo album of the family home remained. .

In the besieged southern city of Mykolaiv, a passer-by paused briefly to gaze at the shining flowers of a broken flower bed lying among bloodstains, the legacy of a Russian shell that killed nine people in the center of the town. The spectator sketched the sign of the cross in the air and continued.

WATCH | The carnage and chaos of war in a Ukrainian city:

The carnage and chaos of war in a Ukrainian city

WARNING: This video contains graphic footage | Uncertainty surrounds the town of Borodyanka – near the Ukrainian capital of kyiv – where residents face the carnage and chaos left by Russian troops, unsure if they will return. 2:51

In Andriivka, a small village located about sixty kilometers west of the capital, two police officers from the neighboring town of Makariv came on Tuesday to identify a man whose body was left in a field next to the traces of a Russian tank.

Captain Alla Pustova said officers had found 20 bodies in the Makariv area in the past two days as investigators struggle to understand the scale of the atrocities they believe have beaten back forces committed around the capital.

Police officers prepare to recover the body of a civilian in Borodyanka, Kyiv region on Tuesday. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, warned that by withdrawing from the capital, the Russian military is regrouping its forces in order to deploy them in eastern and southern Ukraine for a ” crucial phase” of the war. “Moscow is not giving up on its ambitions in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.

As Ukrainian and Russian representatives sent optimistic signals following their latest round of talks a week ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would not agree to a Ukrainian demand that a possible Peace deal would include an immediate troop withdrawal followed by a Ukrainian referendum on the deal.