Europe warns Russia over new sanctions for ‘war crimes’

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By Alberto Nardelli

(Bloomberg) —

Some European Union governments are pushing for the bloc to quickly impose new sanctions in response to multiple reports of Russian troops executing unarmed civilians in Ukrainian cities, according to diplomats familiar with the discussions.

The European Commission had already devised measures which would mainly focus on closing loopholes, strengthening existing actions – such as export controls on technology goods and the full sanctioning of banks already cut off from the global payments system. SWIFT – and expanding the list of sanctioned persons.

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Some EU countries say there is now a trigger for the new sanctions to be put in place quickly, with Ukrainian officials reporting evidence of war crimes committed by Russian troops in northern regions, according to a diplomat in flow of discussions.

Read more: The latest news on the conflict in Ukraine

There is no consensus yet on all the details of a new package, or when it will be implemented, although the bloc’s executive is meanwhile looking to come up with a set of corrective measures as early as this week. . A small number of member states, including Germany, oppose sanctioning Russia’s energy sector, its maritime trade and other key industries, and EU sanctions require unanimous support.

The question for EU members is what actions would prompt a new and more comprehensive sanctions package. Some continue to argue that such measures should only be explored if Russia were to use chemical weapons or capture a major city, three diplomats said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private.

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Other states say events reported in places like Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, are enough to warrant action. And one of the diplomats said even the new measures on the table were not enough given the scale of potential war crimes.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a Twitter post on Sunday that anyone responsible for war crimes must be held to account and that sanctions would be tightened against Russia.

Ukraine has accused Russian soldiers of killing unarmed civilians, with officials saying they found hundreds of bodies in Bucha after Russian troops left. Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, posted several photos of deceased people on Twitter, some with their hands tied behind their backs. Moscow has yet to comment on the accusation. The Kremlin has previously said it only targets military and key infrastructure.

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It comes as Russia changes tactics in the war, redeploying troops away from the north after weeks of failure to gain ground. Instead, his campaign focuses on eastern regions, including the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of the Donbass, and Mariupol, a port city that has already been under siege for weeks.

Meanwhile, Odessa was rocked by explosions early on Sunday. Russia fired high-precision missiles from ships and planes that hit an oil refinery and three storage facilities near the southwestern port city, Defense Ministry spokesman Igor said. Konashenkov.

Human Rights Watch said on Sunday it had documented several cases of apparent war crimes committed by Russian forces, including summary executions.

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“The cases we have documented represent unspeakable and deliberate cruelty and violence against Ukrainian civilians,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Rapes, murders and other acts of violence against persons detained by Russian forces must be investigated as war crimes.”

Ukraine wants the International Criminal Court to send missions to investigate “war crimes” uncovered in Bucha and other formerly occupied towns, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said.

“We are still collecting bodies, uncovering graves, but the count is already in the hundreds,” he told Britain’s Times radio in an interview.

Last month, the United States officially determined that Russian troops had committed war crimes. At the time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had seen “credible reports of indiscriminate attacks and attacks deliberately targeting civilians, as well as other atrocities.” President Joe Biden has said he considers Vladimir Putin a war criminal.

Increasingly frustrated by the position of their counterparts, several EU countries, including Lithuania and Poland, announced that they would unilaterally stop importing Russian energy, while Estonia presented a proposal to withhold and freeze a share of Russia’s energy revenue which she says could be a first compromise.

One of the diplomats said the hope was that the unilateral moves would lead to an agreement among all member states to do more to avoid risking damage to the EU’s united front.

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