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Ukraine seeks ‘ruinous’ sanctions on Russia as Europe hesitates

Ukraine is seeking sanctions that are sufficiently economically destructive for Russia to end its conflict after accusing other countries of prioritising money over punishments for civilian deaths that the West considers war crimes.

In his daily video address on Thursday, President Volodymyr Zilenskiy stated that the democratic world must reject Russian oil. He also said that Russia should be completely blocked from the international financial system.

Zelenskiy claimed that the Kremlin was trying to hide evidence of atrocities after grisly photos of Bucha’s civilians killed in the streets sparked international condemnation.

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Zelenskiy stated that “we have information that Russia’s military has changed its tactics” and was trying to eliminate people from basements and streets. However, he did not provide any evidence.

Moscow denies targeting civilians, and claims images of Bucha bodies were staged to justify additional sanctions against Moscow and stop peace talks.

Russia’s six week-long invasion of Ukraine has forced more than 4 million people to flee the country. It also killed or injured thousands of people, made cities crumble, and caused a series of Western restrictions on the Russian elites.

Washington announced Wednesday measures including sanctions against President Vladimir Putin’s 2 adult daughters, Russia’s Sberbank and Russia’s SBER.MM and a ban for Americans investing in Russia.

The United States wants Russia to be expelled from the Group of 20 largest economies forum. If Russian officials show up, they will also boycott several meetings at the G20 meeting in Indonesia.

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly will vote to suspend Russia from U.N. Human Rights Council.

However, Andriy Ermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential offices, said that his allies had to go even further on Wednesday.

He stated, “Sanctions against Russia should be severe enough to allow us to end this terrible conflict.”

“My goal is for Russia to be stopped from producing weapons by imposing an embargo on technology, equipment, minerals, ores, and rare earth dual-use mineral supplies.”

Zelenskiy had previously been critical of others in the West.

“The only thing we lack is the principled approach by some leaders… who still believe that war and crime are not something as horrible as financial losses,” he said to Irish lawmakers.

The European Union diplomats did not approve any new sanctions Wednesday due to technical issues, sources claimed. Sources said that a ban on coal would have an impact on existing contracts.

EU member Hungary stated that it is ready to pay Russian requests to pay roubles to its gas. This broke ranks with the rest the bloc and highlighted the continent’s dependence on imports that has kept it from a more aggressive response to the Kremlin.

Six people spoke out to Reuters that China’s state refiners are honouring existing Russian oil contracts, but avoiding new ones despite high discounts. This is in response to Beijing’s request for caution as west sanctions against Russia mount.

Western policymakers have condemned the killings at Bucha as war crimes. Ukrainian officials claim that a mass grave dug by a church in Bucha contained 150 to 300 bodies.

Russia claims it is involved in a “special army operation” to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine. The West and Ukraine reject this as a pretext for their invasion.

The general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stated that Russia is still ready to attack the eastern regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, and the southern port of Mariupol where thousands of people are trapped.

Ukrainian authorities claim they are unable to help those evacuated from Izyum, an eastern front-line town, or provide humanitarian aid as it is under Russian control. The east has seen the most fighting.

Many people in Derhachi, an eastern town, north of Kharkiv, and close to the Russian border, have made the decision to flee as soon as possible.

Russian artillery has caused severe damage to buildings. Kharkiv has been hit hard by rocket and air strikes since the beginning.

Mykola, a father-of-two in Derhachi, declined to reveal his surname. He said that he could hear bombardments at night and had been hiding in the corridor with his family.

He hugged his son, trying to keep the tears from running down, and said “(We’ll) go) wherever there’s no explosions, where children won’t need to hear them,” before he collapsed.

According to U.S. officials, Russia’s Sberbank (which holds one-third Russia’s total banking assets) and Alfabank (the country’s fourth largest financial institution), were hit by the new sanctions. However, energy transactions were exempted from the ban.

The sanctions on banking are “a direct hit to the Russian population (and), ordinary citizens”, Tass news agency reported Anatoly Antonov, U.S. ambassador.

Britain also frozen assets of Sberbank and declared that it would prohibit imports of Russian coal at the end of this year.

Europe is on a tightrope, as Russia supplies 40% of the EU’s natural-gas consumption. The bloc also receives a third of its daily oil imports from Russia (roughly $700 million per day).

Germany, Europe’s largest country, which depends on Russian gas for most of its energy, has warned that it is not possible to end Russian imports immediately.

The sanctions aside, the Russian ruble extended its recovery gains on Wednesday. It returned to levels before the invasion and shrugged off concerns of an international default.

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