More Sanctions On Russia On Tap as Zelenskyy Warns of New Hardships

April 6, 2022

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian forces Wednesday carried out punishing strikes against key Ukrainian cities, brushing aside mounting world outrage over the execution-style killings of civilians even as Washington and its Western allies prepared to impose tighter new sanctions against Moscow.

Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, urged residents of an imperiled eastern region to flee an expected Russian assault while it was still possible to do so.

Foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gathered in Brussels to weigh options to better support Ukraine in its 6-week-old battle against the Russian invaders. And the European Union was set to vote on whether to ban Russian coal imports.

EU officials have begun to signal that similar curbs may eventually be applied to Russian oil and natural gas — which generate revenues that are crucial to Moscow’s ability to finance the war. Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, said such a ban, despite its disruptiveness, would likely have to occur “sooner or later.”

In Ukraine, Russia has clear military superiority yet has been unable to seize the capital, Kyiv, or capture and hold major cities. But its forces have devastated parts of Ukraine with long-range missile and artillery attacks, and evidence continues to emerge of atrocities against civilians in areas previously held by Russian troops.

In his overnight video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned compatriots that more hardships lay ahead. He has made increasingly desperate pleas for more Western help, including a scorching speech Tuesday to the United Nations Security Council in which he questioned why the world body even exists if it is helpless in the face of an attack on a sovereign country.

“We don’t have a choice — the fate of our land and of our people is being decided,” Zelenskyy said in his overnight address. “We know what we are fighting for. And we will do everything to win.”

Zelenskyy also pressed ahead with what has become a nonstop round of appeals to Western legislatures, speaking Wednesday by video link with Irish lawmakers. He told them that Russia had been taking deliberate aim at food warehouses and storage depots, aiming to starve the country into submission.

“For them hunger is … a weapon, a weapon against us ordinary people,” Zelenskyy said.

On Wednesday, the strategic southern port of Mariupol and the eastern metropolis of Kharkiv — battered by almost daily bombardment — were again prime Russian targets, Ukrainian officials said. Russian forces for weeks have besieged Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, whose capture would help Moscow create a land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Conditions are increasingly desperate in Mariupol, where tens of thousands of people have been under heavy bombardment, lacking food, water, power and medicine.

“The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening,” an assessment by British military intelligence said Wednesday, noting that the cutoff of humanitarian access was likely a deliberate tactic “to pressure defenders to surrender.”

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said officials would continue efforts to help trapped civilians escape the city, although they are being advised to flee in their own cars because organized evacuation convoys cannot get through.

The redoubled ferocity of the attack on Mariupol is part of what Western and Ukrainian military officials have described as a shifting of Russian resources to the south and east. In the eastern region of Luhansk, civilians were warned that Russian bombardment could soon seal off escape routes.

Graphic footage and images from recently Russian-occupied areas have spurred action not only from major actors such as Washington and the European Union. On Wednesday, New Zealand said it would impose a hefty new tariff on all imports from Russia and widen export restrictions on key industrial products.

In the suburbs of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials have been reporting grim new finds as they continue clearing areas recently vacated by departing Russian troops. A mass grave in the town of Bucha may contain up to 300 bodies, Ukrainian authorities say.

Bucha has become a worldwide byword for Ukraine’s suffering, and on Wednesday, Pope Francis pointed to the town’s plight as a symbol of why the world must support Ukraine.

Welcoming a small group of Ukrainian children at his general audience at the Vatican, the pontiff called for prayers for the country as a whole and for “victims whose innocent blood cries up to the sky.”

Francis then kissed a grimy, bedraggled Ukrainian flag he said had been brought from Bucha.

Russia’s diplomatic isolation over alleged war crimes deepened Wednesday as Greece became the latest European country to join in the expulsion of Russian diplomats. The government in Athens said a dozen members of embassy or consular staff had been asked to leave, joining what has become a tally of hundreds of Russian diplomats across the EU who have been informed that they are no longer welcome.

In another sign of diplomatic tensions, the Ukrainian ambassador in Hungary was summoned Wednesday by the country’s foreign ministry in the wake of days of feuding between Prime Minister Viktor Orban — considered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest friend in the European Union — and Zelenskyy. Orban won a landslide reelection victory Sunday.

The Hungarian foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, wrote on Facebook that Orban’s government condemns “military aggression” and supports Ukrainian sovereignty, but added that “this is not our war.” Hungary has refused to join other EU countries in providing weapons to Ukraine or allowing arms to be sent to Ukraine via its territory.


(McDonnell reported from Kyiv and King from Budapest, Hungary.)


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