The National Times - Zelensky goes to UN to urge response to Russian 'war crimes'

Zelensky goes to UN to urge response to Russian 'war crimes'

Zelensky goes to UN to urge response to Russian 'war crimes'
Zelensky goes to UN to urge response to Russian 'war crimes'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will on Tuesday address the UN Security Council, seeking tougher measures against Moscow over alleged killings of civilians, as his country braces for further Russian bombardments in the east and south.

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The speech, Zelensky's first to the body since Russia's invasion, comes after he made an emotional trip to Bucha, where dozens of bodies were discovered after the withdrawal of Russian troops.

US President Joe Biden has called for a "war crimes trial" over the alleged atrocities and Western officials have vowed new economic sanctions this week in response to the harrowing discoveries in Bucha and other towns near Kyiv.

Zelensky has denounced "war crimes" and attempted "genocide" while appealing for new sanctions, and more Western defence aid, saying they could have helped save innocent lives.

It was not clear if his speech to the UN Security Council, to be delivered on the 41st day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, would be pre-recorded or live.

Europe's worst conflict in decades has killed as many as 20,000 people, according to Ukrainian estimates. It has seen more than 4.2 million flee the country and displaced another 6.5 million internally.

"The sanctions response to Russia's massacre of civilians must finally be powerful," Zelensky said in a Telegram video late Monday after touring the devastated streets of Bucha.

"Did hundreds of our people have to die in agony for some European leaders to finally understand that the Russian state deserves the most severe pressure?" he asked.

- 'In front of my eyes' -

Moscow has denied responsibility and suggested that the images are fake or that the deaths occurred after Russian forces pulled out of the area.

One resident in Bucha, Olena, told AFP she saw Russian soldiers shoot a man in cold blood as units of "brutal" older troops sowed fear in the town.

"Right in front of my eyes, they fired on a man who was going to get food at the supermarket," said the 43-year-old, who did not wish to give her family name.

Denmark, Italy and Spain on Tuesday became the the latest European nations to expel dozens of Russian "intelligence officers" registered as diplomats, with more than 150 sent home in 48 hours.

The Kremlin called the mass expulsions a "short-sighted move" that would complicate negotiations aimed at finding a solution to the conflict.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Kyiv this week alongside EU foreign policy chief Joseph Bo

French prosecutors in Paris said they had opened three more probes into suspected war crimes committed against French citizens in Ukraine.

- NATO warns of Donbas push -

Many in Ukraine are bracing for further Russian bombardments especially in the east and south, and air raid sirens rang out overnight across much of the country.

"In the coming weeks, we expect a further Russian push in the eastern and southern Ukraine to try to take the entire Donbas and to create a land bridge to occupied Crimea," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

Biden told reporters Monday that there should be "a war crimes trial" for Russian President Vladimir Putin, vowing that Washington would join the EU in announcing new sanctions this week.

The US Treasury announced Tuesday that Russia will no longer be able to pay its foreign debt with dollars held in American banks, further squeezing its financial system.

European sanctions will "include oil and coal," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said after talks with his German counterpart in Berlin.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has warned that the "next phase" of Russia's invasion, focusing on expanding territories it holds in the east and south, "could be measured in months or longer."

The full nature of the killings in Bucha and other areas from which Russian troops have withdrawn is still being pieced together.

Ukrainian officials say over 400 civilian bodies have been recovered from the wider Kyiv region, many of whom have been buried in mass graves.

- 'I buried six people' -

But Zelensky has warned that the deaths in Bucha could be only the tip of the iceberg, saying he had information that even more people had been killed in places like nearby Borodianka.

AFP reporters who briefly visited the area saw no bodies in the streets, but locals reported many deaths. The scale of devastation in the town saw buildings flayed open.

"I know five civilians were killed," said 58-year-old Rafik Azimov. "But we don't know how many more are left in the basements of the ruined buildings after the bombardments."

"I buried six people," another resident, Volodymyr Nahornyi, said. "More people are under the ruins."

Ukraine has warned that Moscow is preparing a "full-scale" attack in the country's east and regional officials urged civilians to evacuate Lugansk fearing a major Russian attack.

Even where troops have withdrawn, fears remain, with Kyiv's Mayor Vitali Klitschko telling residents to not yet return, citing the danger of continued shelling and the danger of unexploded munitions.

On Monday, officials in Mykolaiv, on the Black Sea not far from Odessa, said cluster bombs were used against the city in strikes that killed 10 civilians and wounded 46.

Elsewhere in the south, concerns remain for civilians trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol, which has been besieged by Russian forces for over a month, and where authorities say at least 5,000 people have been killed.

The Red Cross said Tuesday that Russian forces had released a team sent to help evacuate Mariupol residents that was detained en route Monday.