The Ukrainian crisis roundup

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April 7 (Reuters) – Fearing a new offensive in the six-week-old war, Ukraine rushed to evacuate civilians as Russian forces pounded cities and towns in the east and south, and Kyiv called on the West to place “ruinous” sanctions on Moscow. 

FIGHTING

* The eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk are seeing the worst of the fighting after Russian forces withdrew from around Kyiv.

*The World Health Organization’s European head said on Thursday that the body was preparing for possible “chemical assaults” in Ukraine.”Given the uncertainties of the current situation, there are no assurances that the war will not get worse,” Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said in a statement sent to journalists from Lviv, Ukraine.”WHO is considering all scenarios and making contingencies for different situations that could afflict the people of Ukraine, from the continued treatment of mass casualties, to chemical assaults,” he said, without providing further details.

* At least 160,000 civilians are trapped in Mariupol without power and with little food or running water, the city mayor said, putting the civilian death toll in the city at about 5,000. Reuters was not able to verify the numbers.

* An International Committee of the Red Cross team has led a convoy of buses and private cars carrying more than 1,000 people after they fled besieged Mariupol. The mayor said 40,000 residents had been forcibly deported to Russia, which has called the arrivals refugees.

* A total of 4,892 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors, more than the 3,846 who escaped on Tuesday, a senior Ukrainian official said. Ukraine hopes to open 10 such corridors. 

* Ukrainian authorities cannot help people evacuate from the eastern front-line town of Izyum or send humanitarian aid because it is completely under Russian control, the Kharkiv regional governor said.

BUCHA DEATHS

* Civilians killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha were “very probably war crimes”, French President Macron said in an interview. 

* Russia’s foreign ministry said that images of bodies strewn across Bucha were staged to justify more sanctions and derail peace talks.

* Reuters reporters have seen the remains of at least five victims in Bucha who were shot through the head. 

DIPLOMACY, ECONOMY

* The U.N. General Assembly will vote on Thursday on suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council. 

* The United States wants Russia expelled from the G20. 

* Austria expelled four Russian diplomats. 

* The United States announced sanctions on President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and Russia’s Sberbank and a ban on Americans investing in Russia.

* European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said there were more EU sanctions to come. The EU was looking into oil and revenues Russia gets from fossil fuels, she said. 

*Belarus said on Thursday it will pay some of its foreign debts in Belarusian roubles, as Western sanctions limit its ability to deal in foreign currencies.The country will pay debt and interest in Belarusian roubles on loans raised from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Nordic Investment Bank, the Belarusian government said.

*Russia is facing its most difficult situation in three decades due to unprecedented Western sanctions, but foreign attempts to isolate it from the global economy will fail, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Thursday.He also said the situation provided room for new business opportunities as foreign companies leaving Russia would make space for others.Western countries are progressively tightening a barrage of economic sanctions imposed to try to force Russia to end its military operation in Ukraine and withdraw its forces.

*G7 foreign ministers condemned what they said were atrocities committed by Russian armed forces in Ukraine, adding that those responsible would be held to account.”We, the G7 Foreign Ministers … and the High Representative of the European Union, condemn in the strongest terms the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in Bucha and a number of other Ukrainian towns,” they said a joint statement published by Britain.

QUOTES

* “Sanctions against Russia must be ruinous enough for us to end this terrible war,” said the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, urging its allies to go further.

Damaged National flags flutter in the wind on a cemetery of Chernihiv city which was blocked by Russian troops for a long time, Ukraine. Some cities and villages had recently been recaptured by the Ukrainian army from Russian forces and now people try to restore normal life there. On 24 February, Russian troops had entered Ukrainian territory in what the Russian president declared a ‘special military operation’, resulting in fighting and destruction in the country, a huge flow of refugees, and multiple sanctions against Russia. EPA-EFE/STR

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