The United States announced on Wednesday a new salvo of “devastating” sanctions against Russia, accused of war crimes, while Ukraine called on civilian populations to evacuate the east of its territory, now a priority target of the Kremlin. Europe 1 takes stock of the situation on the evening of the 42nd day of the invasion of the country by Russia.
Ukraine has called on civilian populations to evacuate the east of its territory, now a priority target of the Kremlin, on the 42nd day of the Russian invasion. The United States announced on Wednesday a new round of “devastating” sanctions against Russia, accused of war crimes. These new American measures, in response to the “atrocities” committed in Ukraine, prohibit “all new investment” in Russia and will apply the most severe constraints possible to the large Russian banks Sberbank and Alfa Bank, as well as to several important public companies. They also target the daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Major war crimes”, says Biden
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday denounced “major war crimes” by referring to “bodies left in the streets after the Russians withdrew” and “civilians executed in cold blood” in Boutcha, near kyiv. Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously described the discovery of these corpses as a “gross and cynical provocation” by the Ukrainian authorities.
According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Russia is blocking humanitarian access to Mariupol (southeast) to conceal the “thousands” of victims of this besieged city. Vladimir Putin has not given up his will to seize all of Ukraine and the war risks lasting “months, even years”, warned for his part the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg.
Eastern Ukraine under pressure
kyiv on Wednesday called on residents of eastern Ukraine to evacuate the region “now”, amid fears of a major and deadly offensive by the Russian army on the Donbass, now the Kremlin’s priority target. Shells and rockets fell on Wednesday at regular intervals on Severodonetsk, the easternmost city held by the Ukrainian army, near the front line with the pro-Russian separatist territories. In Vougledar, a town of 15,000 inhabitants 50 kilometers southwest of Donetsk, two civilians were killed and five injured in the bombardment of an aid distribution center, according to the governor of the region.
Months, years of war
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not given up his will to seize all of Ukraine and the war is likely to last “for months, even years”, warned Wednesday the Secretary General of NATO. “We have to be realistic. The war can last a long time, several months or even years. And that’s why we also have to be prepared for a long journey, both in terms of supporting Ukraine , maintaining sanctions and strengthening our defences,” said Jens Stoltenberg.
New US sanctions
The United States announced Wednesday a new volley of economic and financial sanctions which it describes as “devastating” against Russia, targeting the big banks and the children of Vladimir Putin.
Orban against Putin
Hungarian nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on Wednesday that he had met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to whom he is close, and had “proposed” to him to “declare an immediate ceasefire”. He added that he had invited him to come to Budapest for talks with Ukrainian, French and German leaders. “He said yes, but with conditions,” he said, without giving further details.
In addition, Hungary said it was ready on Wednesday to pay for Russian gas in rubles if necessary, unlike other European Union countries which refused Moscow’s request.
The Russian economy is cracking
Several weeks after salvoes of sanctions going crescendo since the beginning of the offensive, the effects are now beginning to be felt. The Russian Finance Ministry announced on Wednesday that it had settled in rubles a debt in dollars following the refusal of a foreign bank to make the payment in dollars, which exposes it to a risk of default.
Another shocking figure of the day, sales of new cars collapsed by 62.9% in March over one year, symbol of an entire sector at bay, Westerners having notably banned exports to Russia of spare parts.
Putin reacts to the atrocities committed in Boutcha
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday described as a “gross and cynical provocation” by the Ukrainian authorities the discovery of the bodies of civilians in the town of Boutcha, near kyiv, after the withdrawal of forces from Moscow. This is the first reaction of the Russian president on this affair which arouses international indignation. China spoke on Wednesday of “deeply disturbing” images, while refusing to incriminate Russia. As for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he considered that the civilian deaths in Ukraine, attributed to the Russian army, “do not seem far from genocide”.
Finland seizes Russian artwork
Finnish authorities announced on Wednesday that they had seized several works of art from Russian museums transiting through the Nordic country as part of European sanctions against Moscow, worth more than 40 million euros.