A man stands next to graves with bodies of civilians, who according to local residents were killed by Russian soldiers, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Bucha, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 4, 2022.
A man stands next to graves with bodies of civilians, who according to local residents were killed by Russian soldiers, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Bucha, in Kyiv region, Ukraine April 4, 2022. Reuters / STRINGER

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that "accountability must be inevitable" for Russia as he accused invading Russian troops of committing "the most terrible war crimes" since World War Two.

Stepping up international efforts to isolate Moscow over its devastating invasion and emerging evidence of atrocities against civilians, the United States and its allies will announce a sweeping new round of sanctions on Wednesday including a ban on all new investment in Russia, a source familiar with the move said.

The European Union's executive proposed extending sanctions to include a ban on coal imports from Russia as part of the West's response to the discovery of bodies of civilians shot at close range in the northern town of Bucha retaken from Russian forces.

Between 150 and 300 bodies might be in a mass grave by a church in Bucha, Ukrainian human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said on Tuesday.

Zelenskiy questioned the value of the 15-member Security Council, which has been unable to take any action over Russia's Feb. 24 invasion because permanent member Moscow is a veto power, along with the United States, France, Britain and China.

"We are dealing with a state that turns its veto at the U.N. Security Council into the right to (cause) death," Zelenskiy said in a live video address from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, calling for action to reform the world body. "Russia wants to turn Ukraine into silent slaves," he said.

Responding to Zelenskiy, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the Council that Russian troops were not targeting civilians, dismissing accusations of abuse as lies.

Moscow has said the deaths in Bucha were a "monstrous forgery" staged by the West to discredit it.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said responsible world powers and global leaders need to "show backbone - and stand up to Russia's dangerous and unprovoked threat against Ukraine and the world".

Russia says it launched a "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb. 24 to demilitarize and "denazify" a country that President Vladimir Putin regards as an illegitimate state. The Kremlin's position is rejected by Ukraine, a parliamentary democracy, and the West as a pretext for an unprovoked invasion.

China's U.N. ambassador told Tuesday's session that the reports and images showing civilian deaths in Bucha were "very disturbing" but added that the circumstances should be verified and any accusations should be based on facts.

Ambassador Zhang Jun also urged the United States, NATO and the European Union to engage in a dialogue with Russia rather than pursue further sanctions he said were not effective in solving the crisis.


The source familiar with sanctions plans by Washington and its allies said they would include restrictions on financial institutions and state-owned enterprises in Russia, and target Russian government officials and their families.

The proposed EU sanctions, which the bloc's 27 member states must approve, would bar Russian imports worth 9 billion euros ($9.84 billion) and exports to Russia worth 10 billion euros, including semiconductors and computers, and stop Russian ships entering EU ports.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was working on banning oil imports too.

"We all saw the gruesome pictures from Bucha and other areas from which Russian troops have recently left. These atrocities cannot and will not be left unanswered," she said on Twitter.

Earlier in the day Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko called for all business ties with Russia to be cut so as to halt the flow of "bloody money".

Since Russia shifted its offensive to the south and east of Ukraine from the north, where it failed to capture any major cities, grim images have emerged from Bucha near Kyiv, including a mass grave and bodies with their hands bound in the street.

The apparent atrocities have prompted calls for tougher action against Moscow and an international investigation.

Sanctions more severe than any ever imposed on a major power have isolated and crippled Russia's economy, but Ukraine says the West needs to do much more to starve Moscow's war machine.

"Every euro, every cent that you receive from Russia or that you send to Russia has blood, it is bloody money and the blood of this money is Ukrainian blood, the blood of Ukrainian people," Klitschko told a conference in Geneva via video link.

Europe, which obtains about a third of its natural gas from Russia, has been wary of the economic impact a total ban on Russian energy - which Ukraine maintains is vital to securing a peace deal - would bring.

An EU ban on Russian coal would be worth around 4 billion euros a year, von der Leyen said - tiny in comparison with last year's 100 billion euros in oil and gas imports from Russia.

But signalling strengthening EU resolve, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the coal ban was the first step towards an embargo on all fossil fuel imports from Russia.

The Ukraine conflict, now in its sixth week, has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing and trapped hundreds of thousands in besieged and destroyed towns and cities.


At the weekend, Reuters reporters in Bucha saw several bodies apparently shot at close range, along with makeshift burials and a mass grave, but could not independently verify the number of dead or who was responsible.

Satellite images taken in March and provided to Reuters by U.S. company Maxar Technologies showed bodies of civilians on a street in Bucha, which was occupied by Russian forces until about March 30, undercutting Kremlin claims that the scenes were staged.

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths, who is seeking a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine, told the Security Council that "we have a long road ahead of us".

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