(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with troops crossing the border from Belarus and Russia. Moscow’s forces have since been met with “stiff resistance” from Ukrainians, according to U.S. officials.
Russian forces retreated last week from the Kyiv suburbs, leaving behind a trail of destruction. After graphic images emerged of civilians lying dead in the streets of Bucha, U.S. and European officials accused Russian troops of committing war crimes.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
Apr 06, 12:05 pm
Human Rights Watch racing to document war crimes
Hugh Williamson, director of the Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia division, wrote in an OpEd in the Telegraph that the HRW is racing to document war crimes in Ukraine.
Williamson said one apparent war crime was when seven Ukrainian civilians were allegedly executed by Russian soldiers.
Regarding the images of civilian bodies in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, Williamson said they’re concerned many of the deaths may be the result of war crimes, but “it’s too early to say for certain now, and legal proceedings are still at a nascent stage.”
This comes as a spokesperson for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs doubled down on Russian claims that civilian killings in Bucha were staged.
“On April 3, the world witnessed another crime by the Ukrainian authorities, this time in the town of Bucha, where a criminal false flag operation [showing] the alleged killing of civilians by Russian troops had been staged,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Wednesday according to state-run TASS. Zakharova claimed that when Bucha was controlled by the Russian Armed Forces, not a single local resident was affected by acts of violence.
-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou
Apr 06, 11:25 am
New US sanctions target Putin’s children, largest Russian bank
New U.S. sanctions are targeting “the key architects of the war” and their family members, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adult children, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter and members of Russia’s security council, a senior administration official told reporters.
“We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members and that’s why we’re targeting them,” the official said.
The new sanctions are also the most severe sanctions yet on Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank, and its largest financial institution, Sherbank, the official said.
This will “generate a financial shock” to Russia’s economy,” the official said. “[Sherbank] holds nearly one-third of Russia’s total banking sector assets. That’s over $500 billion. That’s roughly twice the size of the second largest Russian bank, which we previously fully blocked. And in total, we’ve now fully blocked more than two thirds of the Russian banking sector, which before the invasion held about $1.4 trillion in assets.”
The official warned that “Russia will very likely lose its status as a major economy.”
The official noted how these sanctions will hurt everyday Russians.
“It means their debit cards may not work. They may only have the option to buy knockoff phones and knockoff clothes. The shelves at stores may be empty. The reality is the country’s descending into economic and financial and technological isolation. And at this rate, it will go back to Soviet style living standards from the 1980s,” the official said.
-ABC News’ Mary Bruce and Molly Nagle
Apr 06, 11:14 am
DOJ charges Russian oligarch with sanctions violations, announces disruption of global botnet
The Justice Department on Wednesday said it’s charged Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev with sanctions violations, alleging Malofeyev was one of the main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea and for providing material support for the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
These actions are part of the KleptoCapture Task force, which is a Justice Department task force established last month aimed at seizing Russian oligarch assets from around the country.
“After being sanctioned by the United States, Malofeyev attempted to evade the sanctions by using co-conspirators to surreptitiously acquire and run media outlets across Europe,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters. “We are also announcing the seizure of millions of dollars from an account at a U.S. financial institution, which the indictment alleges constitutes proceeds traceable to Malofeyev’s sanctions violations.”
One of Malofeyev’s co-conspirators, according to the DOJ, is former U.S. TV producer Jack Hanick, who was arrested last month in the United Kingdom, where he had been living for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions stemming from Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The Justice Department also on Wednesday announced the disruption of a global botnet run by the GRU, Russia’s Chief Intelligence Office. FBI Director Christopher Wray told reporters the team behind the global botnet was responsible for some of the most infectious cyberattacks in recent memory, including the cyberattacks against the Winter Olympics in 2018, attacks on Ukrainian power grid in 2015 and the attack on the country of Georgia in 2019.
The Justice Department seized a yacht that belongs to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg in Marina Real in the Spanish port of Palma de Mallorca, according to court documents unsealed Monday.
In addition to the seizure of Vekselberg’s yacht, U.S. authorities also obtained seizure warrants unsealed in Washington, D.C., Monday that target roughly $625,000 associated with sanctioned parties at nine U.S. financial institutions, the Justice Department said.
At the news conference, Garland also expressed outrage over the images of civilian bodies in Ukraine.
“We have seen the dead bodies of civilians, some with bound hands, scattered in the streets. We have seen the mass graves. We have seen the bombed hospital, theater, and residential apartment buildings. The world sees what is happening in Ukraine. The Justice Department sees what is happening in Ukraine,” Garland said.
Garland said the DOJ is in the “collection of evidence” stage of any war crime prosecution.
-ABC News’ Alex Mallin, Luke Barr
Apr 06, 11:12 am
School-turned-shelter attacked in Donetsk region, governor says
A school-turned-shelter in eastern Ukraine’s war-torn Donetsk region came under attack on Wednesday, according to Donetsk Oblast Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Kyrylenko released images showing several wounded people lying on the ground among debris outside the school, which is currently being used as a humanitarian aid center. First responders were seen helping the victims. Another image showed the inside of a classroom that was damaged during the attack, with the windows shattered and some desks broken.
ABC News’ Visual Verification team confirmed that the photos were taken at a school in Vugledar, a small village about 40 miles from Donetsk city.
-ABC News’ Fergal Gallagher
Apr 06, 11:00 am
UN vote scheduled for Thursday to suspend Russia from UN Human Rights Council
The U.N. General Assembly has scheduled a Thursday vote on suspending Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.
A two-thirds majority is needed to suspend Russia, which would become only the second country to face this censure after Libya was suspended in 2011 for Muammar Gaddafi’s forces firing on protesters.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Tuesday that she “know[s] we’re going to get” the two-thirds majority, pointing to two previous U.N. General Assembly resolutions that passed with 141 and 140 votes each.
-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan
Apr 06, 9:17 am
At least 1,480 civilians killed, 2,195 injured in Ukraine: UN
At least 1,480 civilians have been killed and 2,195 others have been injured in Ukraine since Russian forces invaded on Feb. 24, according to the latest figures from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
At least 123 children were among the dead and 183 among the injured, according to the OHCHR, which noted that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine had reported at least 165 children were killed and 266 injured as of Tuesday.
According to a press release dated Tuesday from the OHCHR, most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missile and airstrikes.
“OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” the agency said.
Those areas include Mariupol and Volnovakha in the Donetsk Oblast, Izium in the Kharkiv Oblast, Popasna in the Luhansk Oblast, and Borodyanka in the Kyiv Oblast, where the OHCHR said “there are allegations of numerous civilian casualties.” Casualty numbers from those locations “are being further corroborated” and thus are not included in the latest statistics, according to the agency.
Apr 06, 8:16 am
More evidence that bodies in Bucha were there before Russian forces left
More evidence has emerged that some of the bodies seen lying in the streets of Bucha were there before Russian troops retreated from the Ukrainian town, northwest of Kyiv.
According to the U.K. Ministry of Defense, an analysis of satellite imagery dated March 21 identified at least eight bodies lying on a street in Bucha. The town was occupied by Russian forces until March 31, the ministry said in an intelligence update Tuesday night.
As Ukrainian troops regained control over Bucha, graphic images surfaced earlier this week showing numerous bodies of dead civilians — some shot at close range and with their hands bound — strewn across streets and in mass graves. Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of committing war crimes. Russia has denied responsibility, calling the footage of Bucha “fake” and saying that all of its units withdrew completely from the town around March 30.
However, mounting evidence contradicts Russia’s claims that the scene was “staged” after its troops left.
Apr 06, 6:17 am
Russian military claims attacks on fuel depots
Russian missiles destroyed fuel storage facilities in five cities across Ukraine on Wednesday morning, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said.
“On the morning of April 6, high-precision air- and ground-based missiles destroyed 5 fuel storage bases near Radekhov, Kazatin, Prosyanaya, Nikolaev and Novomoskovsk,” the ministry claimed in its morning briefing. “These facilities have been used to supply fuel to Ukrainian military formations in Kharkov, Nikolaev and Donbass areas.”
Apr 06, 5:49 am
EU proposes new sanctions, readies Russian coal ban
European Union leaders said on Wednesday they were preparing a new round of economic sanctions against Russia, as outrage grew over civilian deaths in Bucha.
“We have all seen the haunting images of Bucha. This is what is happening when Putin’s soldiers occupy Ukrainian territory,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday. “They call this liberation. I call this war crimes. The Russian authorities will have to answer for them.”
The sanctions to be proposed may include a ban on importing Russian coal, bans on transactions with four Russian banks, and a ban on Russian ships at EU ports, among other measures.
The fifth round of sanctions “will not be our last,” von der Leyen said. U.S. officials are also expected to announce new sanctions on Wednesday, sources told ABC News.
Apr 06, 4:47 am
Mariupol airstrikes continue, deepening humanitarian crisis
Russian forces are continuing their airstrikes in Mariupol, the besieged Ukrainian port city, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday.
“The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening,” the ministry said. “Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water.”
Russian troops have prevented humanitarian access to the southern city, a move the ministry said was a part of a strategy to pressure Ukraine to surrender.
Apr 06, 12:11 am
US concedes Russia won’t be expelled from Security Council
Speaking with MSNBC Tuesday night, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said the U.S. could not remove Russia from the United Nation’s most powerful body, the Security Council.
“They are a member of the Security Council. That’s a fact. We can’t change that fact, but we certainly can isolate them in the Security Council,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.
That’s separate from the push to remove Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council, which Thomas-Greenfield said earlier they hope to bring to the U.N. General Assembly for a vote.
“I know we’re going to get” the necessary two-thirds majority, she told CNN.
Thomas-Greenfield also described what it was like in the room Tuesday as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s graphic video finally played for the Security Council. She told MSNBC it was the first time she saw the uncensored video of the war’s victims.
“We were all speechless. We had all seen various videos showing atrocities. But they all covered up the real, you know, the real people that were there – they were all blurred,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “This was the first time I’ve seen that video without the bodies being blurred. And it was horrific. And there was silence in the room. I can tell you that people were horrified.”
Apr 05, 9:26 pm
US sending $100M in new anti-tank missiles
The U.S. will be sending an additional $100 million in Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, a White House official confirmed to ABC News. The weapons will be coming from existing military stockpiles.
The White House later released a memorandum from President Joe Biden saying he would be using drawdown powers to release “an aggregate value of $100 million in defense articles and services of the Department of Defense, and military education and training, to provide assistance to Ukraine.”
Pentagon officials have said anti-tank weapons provided by the U.S. and other partner countries have been very successful in staving off Russian troops and bogging down vehicle movement.
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